Ministerial transport costs
Sir -- I would like the opportunity to respond to your article relating to the Department of Finance, 'Mandarins go on orgy of spending' (Sunday Independent, November 28), in so far as it refers to two meetings I attended abroad during my first few months as a Minister of State (I was appointed on May 13, 2008). I also want to correct, for the record, a number of minor inaccuracies.
Soon after I was appointed, I was asked by the Minister for Finance, Brian Lenihan, backed by a strong recommendation within the department, to attend the EU-ASEM (Finance Ministers') meeting on the island of Jeju, part of South Korea, in mid-June (not July) 2008. I was briefed that Asian countries like as strong a representation from countries as possible, and not just when the meetings are held in Europe, when they have to make the effort. For example, the French Finance Minister, Christine Lagarde, whom I met for the first time, and who has been very helpful to the Minister and to Ireland, attended the meeting.
Given the growing economic importance of Asian countries reflected in the Government's Asian strategy, ministerial attendance was fully justified. The cost of flights, which could not be booked far in advance, for myself and an accompanying official, and which involved three flights lasting 24 hours each way, came to €12,572 (not €11,024 as reported), and the invoice was stamped and countersigned 'Fair and Reasonable' by an official in the Department of Finance.