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Saturday 23 August 2014

Hundreds spent cancelling flights for ministers

Philip Ryan

Published 15/03/2014 | 02:30

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Finance Minister Michael Noonan
Finance Minister Michael Noonan

GOVERNMENT departments are spending hundreds of euro cancelling back-up commercial flights after being approved to fly in one of the State's private jets.

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It is not policy to make contingency plans for ministers and the majority of departments do not spend taxpayer's money on commercial flights in case jets cannot fly on the day they are booked.

Ministers must justify their need to use the government jet in writing to the Taoiseach and take into account the cost of commercial flights in their application.

An Irish Independent survey of government departments found six had booked back-up flights for ministers, while 10 said it was not policy.

The departments of Education, Social Protection, Agriculture, Finance, Children and Defence have all booked contingency fights for ministers.

Alan Shatter is both Justice Minister and Defence Minister.

The Justice Department said it was not policy to book back-up flights but the Department of Defence spent €725 cancelling contingency flights for the minister and his officials ahead of a State visit to the Middle East last year.

Finance Minister Michael Noonan's department said due to the "priority nature" of his foreign engagements commercial flights were booked.

Public Reform Minister Brendan Howlin does not have contingency flights booked on his behalf.

A spokeswoman for Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney said it was "prudent" to put in place contingency plans so ministers could meet their international obligations.

The Department of Social Protection said it was not practice to book commercial flights when Minister Joan Burton is due to travel on the state jet.

Children's Minister Frances Fitzgerald flew by government jet on three international trips. On one occasion, the department booked commercial flights because the jet was under repair.

Irish Independent

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