Friday 28 October 2016

Refurbishment of Irish embassies topped €2.6m, despite visit to Ikea

Gordon Deegan

Published 02/08/2016 | 02:30

The largest single spend last year was at the department’s permanent representation to the EU at Brussels. Photo: GETTY
The largest single spend last year was at the department’s permanent representation to the EU at Brussels. Photo: GETTY

Despite the efforts of thrifty staff at Ireland's new mission in Jakarta, Indonesia, the overall spend on Irish embassy refurbishments topped €2.66m last year.

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New figures released through the Freedom of Information Act show the €2.66m spend was the highest in recent years due to the Government's decision to expand its network of missions across the world to 80.

The second-highest spend on a single mission was at Jakarta in Indonesia at €379,476.

The figure would have been higher, perhaps, but for embassy staff opting for Ikea furniture for the ambassador's residence in some cases.

Detailed figures provided by the Department of Foreign Affairs show that the Jakarta mission spent €6,222 on Ikea furniture in 2015.

The total spend on furniture at the Jakarta mission in 2015 - including the outlay on Ikea furniture - amounted to €21,170.

The figures also show that the garden works at the new ambassadorial residence in Jakarta cost €8,348, while an additional €7,214 was spent under the heading of drapes and curtains.

The spend at the Jakarta mission also included an outlay of €1,595 on "chancery flagpoles".

The €2.66m spend on refurbishing embassies and ambassadors' residences last year represents a 14pc increase on the €2.34m spent under the same heading in 2014 and a 40pc increase on the €1.9m spent in 2013.

The high spend in 2015 was also driven by the opening of new missions in Hong Kong (€333,043), Bangkok (€318,562) and Austin, Texas (€213,267).

According to a statement accompanying the figures, refurbishment of embassies "becomes necessary over time in order to maintain a suitable representational standard".

The Department's FOI unit stated that "capital and maintenance costs in Zagreb, Hong Kong, Jakarta, Bangkok and Austin relate to the opening of Ireland's new missions in those locations".

The statement adds: "In January 2014, the Government agreed an expansion of the State's consular network abroad to include five new embassies and three new consulates to be established in locations across South East Asia, Europe, Africa and the Americas.

"The expansion of the network is specifically designed to maximise potential in the areas of trade, investment, tourism and educational exchanges - all of which will be drivers of growth into the next generation."

The statement continues: "The network of missions abroad now stands at 80, which is smaller than similar-sized countries with which we must compete such as the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway and Finland."

The largest single spend last year was at the department's permanent representation to the EU at Brussels, totalling €387,143.

Irish Independent

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