Geoghegan-Quinn continues to put VIP airport perk on taxpayers' bill
EUROPEAN Commissioner Maire Geoghegan-Quinn says she will continue to use the VIP lounge at Dublin Airport, at taxpayers' expense, until the Government cuts off the perk.
Ms Geoghegan-Quinn gets to use the VIP perk when she travels for work, paid for by the Government, despite being on a generous salary of €250,000 plus generous travel and accommodation expenses. Defending her use of the VIP facilities, the commissioner told the Irish Independent she was "still availing of the service".
"That is a service that has been made available by successive Irish governments from the beginning of our membership of the EU to all EU Irish commissioners.
"If, and when, the Irish Government change that position, I have no difficulty with it," she said.
Latest figures show the commissioner, whose office is based in Brussels, used the perk 22 times – at a cost of more than €5,654 to the taxpayer – in the last six months of 2012.
Ms Geoghegan-Quinn is due to address the Seanad today on the role of research, innovation and science in supporting the development of the Irish economy.
The Government clamped down on the use of the VIP facilities by former Taoisigh last year.
But, it was revealed last month that the Department of the Taoiseach racked up costs of more than €22,000 for the use of VIP facilities at Dublin Airport by former, and current, office holders in the second half of 2012.
Ms Geoghegan-Quinn, former President Mary Robinson and former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern were named as having used the premier service.
Mr Ahern's use of the facility dated back to 2011 and the provision of VIP facilities for former Taoisigh was discontinued from January 1, 2012.
According to the Dublin Airport Authority website, the service for high-flyers includes transport from the aircraft to the VIP suite and it will also assist "with the formalities of immigration and customs as quickly as possible".
The Department of the Taoiseach says it pays for the use of the VIP facilities at Dublin Airport by Ireland's EU Commissioner and former presidents.
When asked last month about the continuation of the perk, Transport Minister Leo Varadkar said he would examine it.
"I'll certainly look into it," he said.
The European Commission says Ms Geoghegan-Quinn uses the facility as it is "a courtesy extended by the Irish Government".
The perk has been extended to every European commissioner from Ireland since the country joined the EU.
However, Ms Geoghegan-Quinn gets a salary of €248,004 as well as travel and entertainment expenses.