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Portmarnock golf battle costs quango €500k fees


GOLF: No sweet stroke played. Photo: Getty Images

GOLF: No sweet stroke played. Photo: Getty Images

GOLF: No sweet stroke played. Photo: Getty Images

THE decision by the troubled Equality Authority to take Ireland's top golf club, Portmarnock, all the way to the Supreme Court will probably mean that the taxpayer takes a hit of more than €500,000.

The Authority took a losing case against the golf club because of its "men-only" rule for members.

Figures seen by the Sunday Independent show that the state agency has already paid over €172,000 in legal fees for the case -- but it is expecting to face another bill of over double that amount from the golf club's lawyers. Costs were awarded against the quango.

In 2008, the body's budget was cut by 43 per cent, despite widespread protest.

Last year, the McCarthy report suggested further reductions in its funding. On Friday, an inside source at the ailing state agency said that they were expecting a bill from the golf club this week. "The rumour mill suggests that it will be in the region of €350,000 to €500,000 -- but whatever it is, we will certainly send it for taxing."

The costly defeat of its court adventure represents a severe blow to the besieged state body. The likely costs in the case will represent nearly 10 per cent of its annual grant from the taxpayer and 20 per cent of its entire non-pay budget awarded by the State.

News of the setback comes in a year when the Authority received a further reverse. An advance from the European Commission was cut by €40,000 because of a failure to provide information dating back to an earlier programme.

A source at the authority said that this was a 10-year-old project started under its predecessor, the Employment Equality Agency.

The two bodies were incorporated. Administration costs at the authority rocketed by 19 per cent in 2008.

Part of this was because board members came on the payroll. The average director's fee is around €9,000 a year.

A spokesman at the golf club refused to comment.

Sunday Independent