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Thursday 17 August 2017

Feedback from trips often short on detail

Treacy Hogan

THE reports councillors file after expensive foreign visits are far from illuminating.

While those on official visits such as twinning or St Patrick's Day events are not obliged to file reports, those at conferences or seminars abroad must do so.

In most cases, this amounts to just a few lines of text that do little to enlighten the taxpayers who funded the expeditions.

Fingal Labour councillors Tom Kelleher and Michael O'Donovan attended the Tallinn conference in Estonia on culture and tourism last June. They reported that the trip was worthwhile as they gained valuable insights.

However, they complained there was "an over-emphasis on the Baltic region". They said the conference was "quite relevant, as there was a focus on the arts and culture in a time of recession".

Dublin city Fine Gael councillor Naoise O Muiri attended a flood-protection conference in Paris in September. He gave a two-line report saying: "Attended with city council officials and attended a number of presentations by project teams involved in flood-protection works in a range of European countries including Germany and Netherlands.

"Attendance worthwhile, but not without city officials. Very technical subject matter."

Eight Mayo county councillors went abroad last year on official visits. Margaret Adams, Cyril Burke and Austin F O'Malley went to Calderdale in England. Michael Burke visited Argentina. Jimmy Maloney, Michael Burke, Eugene McCormack, Joe Mellett and Austin F O'Malley also travelled to Estonia.

They clocked up €5,345 in expenses between them.

Dublin city councillor Louise Minihan, a member of Eirigi, who received a two month suspended sentence in February last year for splattering former minister Mary Harney with red paint, attended a media training conference in Co Cork.

Her two sentence summary said the conference was on "how to deal with bad press and how to build up relations with the media".

Irish Independent

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