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DAA chief pulls out of Caribbean junket





DECLAN Collier, the chief executive of the debt-laden Dublin Airport Authority, has pulled out of a junket to the tropical island of Bermuda being held this week; but he has been replaced by his DAA colleague Vincent Harrison director of strategy and regulation at the loss-making semi-state.

Mr Collier was due to jet out to sunny Bermuda to chair one of the sessions at a conference of airport operators, but suddenly cancelled his booking in the past two weeks.

Although his lower profile DAA colleague would not be substituting for Collier as chairman at the session until next Wednesday, he was due to arrive at Bermuda's luxury Fairmont Southampton Hotel as early as yesterday.

The Fairmont Southampton Hotel is described in its promotion as having the largest guestrooms in Bermuda. It has a "lush 18-hole golf course" with all rooms " boasting private balconies, marble bathrooms and walk-in closets plus plush bathrooms".

The DAA chief was due to sample the comfort of a hotel "perched on Bermuda's stunning south shore with miles of pink sand beaches" which was voted one of the top resorts in the Atlantic by the readers of the Conde Nast Traveler magazine in 2009.

A receptionist at the hotel told the Sunday Independent that the normal rate for the rooms booked for the conference was $408 (€293) a night, but that there was a special discount for those attending the Airport Council event, reducing the basic rate to $251 a night.

Mr Harrison was booked to arrive yesterday, in good time to enjoy a day's recuperation today followed by a full Monday of what the brochure describes as reserved for "leisure activities" for conference participants.

The leisure activities available to the lucky visitors to Bermuda will include a golf tournament at Port Royal, dubbed the "home of the PGA Grand Slam".

According to the conference brochure, golfing enthusiasts among the delegates will be supplied with a breakfast box, together with all equipment and shoes at the hotel's golf club, reopened after a multi-million dollar renovation.

Those who do not play golf can opt for a day's fishing where they head out "in search of wahoo together with a breakfast picnic".

After the "leisure activities", delegates will get down to the three-day conference which includes a four-hour gala dinner on the first day, followed by four sessions on Tuesday and three on Wednesday.

Last year, the Dublin Airport Authority lost €13m. Despite that, chief executive Declan Collier was given a package of €568,000 -- including a performance bonus. Mr Harrison's package is not published, but other top executives in the same bracket received generous bonuses. The state-owned outfit has gross debts of €1.2bn. In recent months, its debt has been downgraded by ratings agency Standard & Poor's.

The reason for Mr Collier's pullout from the event in favour of Mr Harrison is not known, but his commitments elsewhere at home may have forced the cancellation.

Apart from the pressing demands of the imminent opening of the hugely expensive giant Terminal Two building at Dublin Airport on November 19, he is a director of another turkey, the deeply troubled Allied Irish Banks. In recent weeks, AIB has held several unscheduled board meetings to discuss the controversial departure of chief executive Colm Doherty and chairman Dan O'Connor.

It is understood that a few vocal board members were unhappy about the appointment of Dan Hodgkinson as the new executive chairman. In those circumstances, it would have been highly inappropriate for a public interest director like Mr Collier -- paid handsomely by a nationalised bank on top of his DAA package of €568,000 -- to have headed off to the winter sun.

Last night, the DAA was tightlipped about the voyage. A spokesman refused to tell the Sunday Independent whether Mr Harrison's tickets were business class or standard class. He refused to reveal the cost of the transatlantic flights or the price of the DAA's annual subscription to Airports Council International. He admitted that Mr Collier had originally been booked for the trip but "had a number of other commitments in Dublin, including preparatory meetings in relation to the opening of Terminal Two later this month".

Sunday Independent