Government spends €162,670 ferrying EU chiefs around the capital
THE Government has spent more than €13,500 a week transporting EU dignitaries around the capital as part of the EU presidency.
Despite having a fleet of luxury Audi A6s at its disposal, some €162,670 has been paid out for the purpose of "car hire" by the Department of Foreign Affairs in the first three months of this year.
The last time Ireland hosted the presidency in 2004 it cost €110m, but the budget for the six-month stint this year is about €60m.
The cost of the presidency to date is €984,207.
The Government also provided bus passes and tickets for the Dublin Bikes scheme to encourage the 150,000 delegates attending around 180 meetings to use public transport to help keep costs down.
However, records obtained by the Irish Independent show that the cost of supplying visitors with stationery, transport and other mementos does not come cheap.
The departments of the Taoiseach, Foreign Affairs and Finance have spent almost €1m on stationery, a website, scarves, ties, chauffeurs and an official logo so far.
It also signed sponsorship deals worth €1.4m for telecoms, broadband and other services, including a deal with Audi which provided a fleet of luxury A6 saloons for travel from Dublin Airport to hotels.
However, these cars can only be used for the heads of delegation from other EU member states – generally ministers – during 11 informal ministerial events and a "limited number" of other high-profile functions.
The spending records show that some €162,000 was paid to Murrays Chauffeur Drive in Dublin during the first three months of the year.
It was one of five companies awarded contracts for "ground transport services" last year, and the company operates an "extensive fleet of executive chauffeur cars, limousines, MPVs and coaches", according to its website.
No money was paid in car hire during 2012, spending records from the Department of Foreign Affairs show.
There are no details available for payments to the other transport companies, but one – Optimum Chauffeur Drive – was awarded the contract to provide the drivers for the Audi-sponsored cars during the presidency.
The Department of Foreign Affairs has previously said that the presidency was an opportunity to promote Ireland and highlight Irish goods and services to a wide audience.