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Saturday 30 August 2014

Language lessons for diplomats cost €170k in one year

Gordon Deegan

Published 12/07/2014 | 02:30

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Eamon Gilmore confirmed his department spent over €300,000 on third-level and training programmes for staff between June 2013 and the end of May this year
Eamon Gilmore confirmed his department spent over €300,000 on third-level and training programmes for staff between June 2013 and the end of May this year

THE Department of Foreign Affairs spent more than €170,000 on language classes for its staff over the past year, new figures show.

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In a written Dail response provided prior to yesterday's reshuffle, outgoing Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore confirmed his department spent over €300,000 on third-level and training programmes for staff between June 2013 and the end of May this year .

Along with the €172,020 spent on language tuition, the department spent €84,975 on third-level fees and an additional €43,671 on other courses.

In his reply to Sinn Fein's Mary Lou McDonald, former Minister Gilmore said: "Given the nature of diplomatic service, my department also makes a significant investment in language tuition.

"Other courses and training programmes regularly delivered include a comprehensive training programme for those members of my department taking up foreign postings, with modules on trade promotion, economic themes, provision of consular services, personal safety, public diplomacy and human rights.

"Training is also routinely provided for staff in key areas such as management development, performance management, leadership... In-house expertise is used wherever possible."

The spend on languages is not confined to the Department of Foreign Affairs, with the Department of Arts and Heritage spending €31,963 on staff sitting courses to obtain certificates in professional Irish.

Staff in the department took some off-seat courses in the past year, with a sea survival course costing €300 and scuba diving course costing the same amount. It also paid out €7,227 on staff sitting a courtroom skills/expert witness case.

The Department of Agriculture's spend on training and courses amounted to €752,211 and it includes an outlay of €675 on 'Food safety (ice cream) workshop'.

The department has a sometimes testy relationship with farmers and one of the largest outlays by the department on training last year was the €28,160 spend on 'conflict management and resolution'. It spent a further €2,480 on a course on 'emotional intelligence'.

Former Education Minister Ruairi Quinn said that in 2008, the departmental training budget was €1m and this reduced to €450,000 for 2014 that represents a saving of 55pc over the 2008 figure.

Irish Independent

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