Reilly's PA 'funding wife's trip to China'
THE Department of Health insisted last night that Health Minister James Reilly's constituency fixer is paying the costs of his wife accompanying him on an official trip to China.
The Health Minister jetted off to China while problems mount in the health service.
Dr Reilly missed the Cabinet's first meeting after the summer break to go on the week-long trip abroad, which was not publicised in advance.
His low-profile visit is reminiscent of former Health Minister Mary Harney's infamous 'Superbowl' trip to the US four years ago, which Dr Reilly criticised.
Dr Reilly is not accompanied on the visit by any medical experts. Instead, he brought his private secretary and his politically-appointed parliamentary assistant, Fine Gael councillor Tom O'Leary.
Mr O'Leary's wife is also on the trip but her costs are being covered privately, according to the Department of Health.
The department said Dr Reilly's staff would "provide the appropriate supports and advice to the minister".
The cost of the trip to the taxpayer is expected to be more than €10,000.
The flights are costing €7,072, hotels are €2,000 and hiring a car and driver is around €700.
The final cost won't be known until a later date.
The minister and his PA flew business class, while Mr O'Leary decided to travel premium economy to accompany his wife.
The department said it booked all four flights.
The councillor's seat in economy class was not used to subsidise the cost of his wife's ticket, the spokesman said.