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Wednesday 26 April 2017

'I didn't think about claim for hotel 40km from home'

Edel Kennedy, Fiach Kelly and Barry Duggan

A COUNCILLOR has admitted that she "didn't think" about claiming money to stay at a hotel just 40km from her home.

Fine Gael's Mary Harty billed Limerick County Council for €140.44 last year after staying in the Woodland House Hotel in Adare, just 40km from her home in Corelish, Pallasgreen.

"I assume it was my mid-term break from school and I stayed the night there or whatever," she said, adding that they were encouraged to attend the Mid West Regional Authority meeting by their members.

"I just stayed for an overnight because I was there overnight."

However, she conceded that it wasn't the best use of the council's money.

"Well, I suppose I didn't think about it in those terms. When you put it to me like that it puts a different complexion on it."

The cost of the conference, including hotel (€140.44), mileage (€59.74) and fee (€90), was €290.18 -- which came out of her annual allowance. The allowance can be spent on going to whatever conferences the councillor chooses.

Ms Harty had previously taken part in a controversial €32,000 council trip to China to "develop links with Shanghai".

Meanwhile, one of her former colleagues, Eddie Creighton, spent almost all of his annual conference funds in the first six months of the year -- after he had decided not to run for re-election in June 2009 on health grounds.

Mr Creighton had a €9,000 annual limit and he spent €8,829.72 before May 31. One seminar in Louth -- which cost a total of €733.95 -- was entitled "Retirement Planning for Councillors".

He went to two Waterford seminars in January entitled "Effective Communication for Councillors". The combined cost was €1,394.

Mr Creighton also attended the Mid West Regional Authority meeting in Adare and stayed at a hotel 44km from his home. The cost was €285.32.

Separately, Fianna Fail's Noreen Ryan stepped down just prior to the election -- but spent €737.86 on going to a seminar in March entitled "How to Run a Winning Campaign".

Meanwhile, Limerick City Council ran up a bill in excess of €25,000 on trips to the US and Europe in 2008.

Also in 2008, the then mayor of Limerick, Ger Fahy, travelled to Santa Clara and Boston in March with city manager Tom Mackey and director of services Kieran Lehane at a cost of €6,077. The trip was used to promote Limerick city as a location for foreign direct investment in technology.

The same month, councillors including Ger Fahy, Kieran O'Hanlon, Kevin Kiely, Joe Leddin, John Gilligan and city official Kieran Lehane travelled to the St Patrick's Day parade in Worcester, Massachusetts. The trip cost €10,419.

A spokesperson for Limerick City Council said it was the policy of the local authority for "an official to accompany elected members on official overseas business to support and advise them throughout its duration".

Travelling to Cardiff in May 2008 for Munster's Heineken Cup final success over Toulouse were councillor Kevin Kiely and director of service Pat Dowling -- at a cost of €2,271.

Other trips included visits to Newcastle, where councillor Michael Hourigan and deputy city manager John Field were shown the regeneration of the city centre at a coast of €1,027.

Councillor Jim Long and the council's executive librarian travelled to Spain for a formal ceremony in Gotarrendura where a street was named after Limerick writer Kate O'Brien. The Spanish sojourn cost €4,155.

Former mayor John Gilligan travelled to Liverpool accompanied by two officials for an international green flag award for Limerick's People's Park. The cost of the trip was €1,327.

Irish Independent

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