O'Keeffe still runs up €30,000 bill on 'economy' junket
NEW Enterprise Minister Batt O'Keeffe ran up a bill of almost €30,000 during a St Patrick's visit to the Far East, new figures obtained by the Irish Independent reveal.
Government efforts to economise on St Patrick's Day junkets saw just €3,700 being shaved off the cost of the week-long visit to Korea and Japan last month.
Despite ditching limousine hire, VIP airport lounges and other perks, Mr O'Keeffe's trip still cost taxpayers €29,500.
The same visit in 2008, made by Communications Minister Eamon Ryan, cost €33,200.
Internal correspondence seen by the Irish Independent reveals substantial efforts were made to keep costs down following embarrassing revelations of extravagant spending on foreign trips in recent years.
However, these savings were largely eaten up by increases in flight costs.
Flights on Mr Ryan's trip two years ago cost €17,900, while the cost of flights for Mr O'Keeffe's trip was just over €22,000.
Business-class flights for Mr O'Keeffe, his wife Mary and two officials accompanying them cost €5,500 each.
Officials with the embassy in Seoul managed to negotiate a special rate of just €113-a-night for the five-star Grand Hyatt hotel in the city.
Expensive car hire previously favoured on such trips was avoided in Seoul, with two embassy cars being used instead.
However, a people carrier was also hired for the entourage, at a cost of €2,250.
On the four-day Tokyo leg of the visit. The group stayed at the five-star Hotel Okura, with the bill coming to just under €2,800.
An interpreter was hired at a cost of €500, compared to almost €3,000 spent on translators during Mr Ryan's visit in 2008. Other expenses in Japan included renting mobile phones and having business cards printed in Japanese.
Just €60 was spent on official gifts for the visit.