Aras sends car North to collect staffer
Housekeeper gets use of state fleet
President Mary McAleese's state car and garda driver have repeatedly been used to transport a housekeeper working at Aras an Uachtaran from Northern Ireland to the Phoenix Park on Sunday nights, the Sunday Independent can reveal.
According to sources at the Aras, the Volvo S80 car and garda protection driver have regularly been used to pick up a senior member of the housekeeping staff, who lives in Northern Ireland, at a hotel near the Border -- to bring them back to Dublin to begin the working week.
It has been confirmed that the senior member of staff travels by train on Thursday evenings but is collected by the state car and garda driver on Sunday evenings.
The President has a state car for her exclusive personal use, but a second car, manned by a garda from the ministerial fleet, is also assigned to the President, which is used for other McAleese family members. Known as the 'house car', it is primarily used for her husband Martin McAleese when he is not travelling with his wife to official functions.
The Sunday Independent has confirmed that the house car has been used to make the two-hour round-trip on Sunday evenings to collect the housekeeper.
A spokesman for the President declined to comment on the use of the car, and when pressed refused to deny that the car was being used for this purpose.
It has also emerged that plans to cut costs by having a pool of ministerial cars won't go ahead on security grounds -- following the paint attack on Health Minister Mary Harney by Dublin city councillor Louise Minihan. It is believed that security personnel are on high alert for such attacks, with former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern top of the priority list.
Mr Ahern has been heavily criticised for saying he would not be giving up his luxury S-Class Mercedes state car because of security fears.
At a cost of over €11m since 2008, 90 gardai form the full fleet of drivers and bodyguards to the President, the Cabinet, the former President, former Taoisigh and Attorney General.
A government statement yesterday said: "This arrangement has been in place for many decades and has been maintained by successive governments.
"This arrangement takes account of overall security requirements. The Government is fully aware of the costs associated with the fleet. In that context, no new cars have been purchased in 2009 and 2010."