Friday 22 September 2017

Week-long 'fact-finding' jaunt to US for two TDs and senator

DANIEL McCONNELL Chief Reporter

TWO TDs and one senator have donned the 'Green Jersey' for the past week to travel across the United States on a fact-finding mission at the taxpayer's expense.

The three members of the Joint Oireachtas Foreign Affairs Committee -- chairman Pat Breen (FG), Sinn Fein's Padraig MacLochlainn and Senator Mark Daly of Fianna Fail -- left Dublin last Sunday for California, Texas and Georgia where they were to explore trade links.

According to an Oireachtas spokesman, the full cost of the trip is not yet known and will not be "until costs are reconciled afterwards".

However, he confirmed the taxpayer would be picking up the tab. He pointed out that all flights on the trip were booked in economy class.

But, from their itinerary, it is clear the trio got to see some of the best the US has to offer, taking in stops in Atlanta, Houston, San Jose and San Francisco, where they stayed in a four-star hotel.

Defending the jaunt, Mr Breen said the visit provided a valuable opportunity to examine how economic ties between the US and Ireland could be strengthened and how the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade could assist that goal.

"This visit -- including meetings with three consulates, state agencies, business networks and industry representatives -- provides valuable information to supplement the information gathered through our committee meetings," he said.

The cross-party trio began their "fact-finding" jaunt in Atlanta, Georgia, where they had dinner with members of the Global Irish Network.

After breakfast the following morning they met with Georgia's economic commissioner Chris Cummiskey, and after a visit to Georgia Tech they had lunch which was hosted by the local chamber of commerce.

That night they were guests at a reception at the consulate.

Last Tuesday, they met the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce president Sam Williams, followed by a visit to the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library.

In Houston, the trio had dinner with the honorary consul and vice-consul.

On Wednesday, they had a breakfast meeting with local businessmen, then it was off to the Houston Medical Centre for lunch and more meetings.

That evening they were guests at a dinner hosted by Denis Headon of the Global Irish Network.

But they couldn't stay too late as they had an early flight to San Jose the following morning. There, they met with Rory McInerney of Intel and Barry O'Sullivan of Cisco, before moving on to San Francisco where they stayed at the luxury Fairmont Hotel, ahead of another official dinner in Twin Peaks.

Friday was their last day of engagements and they met with members of the Irish-American community.

They were also guests of GAA headquarters in Treasure Island where a reception was held. The clubhouse was partly funded by the Irish taxpayer. They finished up on Friday where they were guests of the consul-general at Original Joe's restaurant in North Beach, before catching their flight home yesterday.

Sunday Independent

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