Monday 29 December 2014

Foreign trips sparked expenses row with Enda Kenny's future wife

Fergus Black and Ralph Riegel

Published 28/12/2012 | 05:00

FIANNA Fail was forced to pick up the expenses tab for two party officials who accompanied Charles Haughey on foreign trips – one of them the wife of the current Taoiseach.

The question of whether the costs of the trips to the US and Brussels in 1982 should be met from Exchequer funds or Fianna Fail coffers was raised after Aer Lingus invoiced the Department of the Taoiseach for IR£1,660.

Fianna Fail's press secretary Tony Fitzpatrick and his then personal secretary Fionnuala O'Kelly – who was later to become a senior government press officer and, later still, was to marry current Taoiseach Enda Kenny – were part of the delegation which accompanied Mr Haughey on visits to the United States and Brussels for a European Council meeting.

The tickets were arranged through the Department of the Taoiseach, which had been subsequently billed by the airline.

But by May 1982, no payment had been made as the debate on who should foot the expense took hold. At the time, a note in a Department of the Taoiseach file said it was clear from the regulations governing the payment of travel and subsistence expenses that they were intended for civil servants or officials who were being paid from the budget of a particular department.

"In order that the Taoiseach will be able to deal with any queries in the matter it is advisable that the question of who should pay the expenses is settled," it said.

The Taoiseach's department was advised there were two options. The first was to tell Fianna Fail it had to pay up and inform the Department of Foreign Affairs that they should seek recoupment for the accommodation expenses from the party.

Expertise

The second option was to consider a case to be put to the Department of Public Service for the payment of the expenses from official funds on the grounds that it was necessary for the Taoiseach to have available on his trips "a person with the necessary international press relations expertise".

"My own recommendation on this matter," wrote one official, "is that the first option (Fianna Fail pays) be adopted as being the more logical and defensible of the two."

Just over two weeks later, Frank Wall, Fianna Fail's general secretary, received a "private and confidential" letter from the Department of the Taoiseach saying that the matter had been discussed with Mr Haughey.

"He has decided that the Fianna Fail party should pay the expenditure involved. . . we will now request Aer Lingus to invoice you direct for the expenditure involved, which amounts to IR£1,660 approximately.

"We will inform the Department of Foreign Affairs of the position, insofar as they may have incurred expenditure in relation to hotel accommodation etc, for the persons concerned," Mr Wall was told.

Irish Independent

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