Dempsey flies to Derry while chauffeur drives 250km to meet him at airport
Published 06/08/2010 | 05:00
TRANSPORT Minister Noel Dempsey used the government jet and his ministerial car to attend a summer school.
He used the luxury Gulfstream IV jet, which costs €7,890 per hour and is capable of flying across the Atlantic, to fly from Dublin to Derry instead of the smaller, second government jet -- the Learjet -- as that was undergoing maintenance at the time.
And when he landed his garda driver was on hand to pick him up in his ministerial car after having driven 247km from Dublin.
Mr Dempsey was then driven a further 94km from Derry airport to the MacGill summer in Glenties, Co Donegal, so he could be in time for his 4pm speech on July 19 last.
But Mr Dempsey told the Irish Independent last night that he needed the government jet to attend an official meeting in London that had come up at relatively short notice.
He said he could not give details of the meeting because it was sensitive government business, relating to aviation.
"The meeting was a very, very important one and in this instance it was the best, most effective and probably the only way I could do it," he said.
After his speech, Mr Dempsey was driven back to Derry Airport by his garda driver before taking the government jet to London at 8pm.
Mr Dempsey said his office had investigated all the alternatives and knew they were under orders to get him to places in the most economical way.
He said that he had a briefing at the Irish Embassy in London at 7.15am the following day and then the official meeting at 8am.
Mr Dempsey also defended the use of his garda driver, who had to make a round trip of around 680km.
"He is security for me. I was going into Northern Ireland, but even if I was going to Kerry somebody would have to be there for me," he said.
Fine Gael Donegal North East TD Joe McHugh said Mr Dempsey's transport choice was a missed opportunity for the local economy. "The minister could have flown into Donegal Airport in Carrickfinn and put some money in the pocket of a local taxi driver to take him to Glenties," he said.
Mr McHugh said Mr Dempsey could have got a taxi for the 94km journey from Glenties to Derry and flown to London using a commercial airline "at a fraction of the cost".
Frank McBrearty, a Labour councillor in Donegal, also accused Mr Dempsey of wasting taxpayers' money.
"The least he could have done was to fly in to Donegal Airport in Carrickfinn," he said.