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'Astonishing' €2m bill for transport plan advisers

TRANSPORT Minister Noel Dempsey spent €2m on consultants in the first six months of 2008 -- with most of the money splurged on promoting the Transport 21 blueprint.

The bill was dubbed "truly astonishing" as it emerged that €1.2m has been spent this year on public relations, marketing and advertising.

The huge spend went towards promoting Transport 21, even though many projects aren't due for completion before 2020.

Labour Party finance spokeswoman Joan Burton said: "At a time when the Government has announced that it is cutting back on such frivolous and wasteful expenditure, it seems extraordinary that Mr Dempsey could continue to splurge taxpayers' money on promoting his department and himself."

According to newly obtained figures, the Department of Transport has splurged more than €18m on outside consultants since 2003.


But whereas only 12pc of the amount spent on consultancy in 2007 (€4.3m) went on PR, advertising and marketing, by this year a whopping 60pc was being diverted in this direction.

The spending on advertising Transport 21 has gone into newspapers, TV and radio -- even though many of the key projects have been delayed. Mr Dempsey even spent €70,000 on designing a new logo for the €34bn programme, even though the existing logo had been developed by his department for free.

It comes after Environment Minister John Gormley was criticised for spending €15m on a climate change advertising campaign -- compared to just €5m on the home insulation programme.

Fine Gael transport spokesman Fergus O'Dowd has previously criticised the €3m overall spent on promoting the Transport 21 programme as a waste of money.

He said: "A double decker bus costs €280,000. So the money being spent this year alone would buy 10 more buses."

The Transport 21 plan was launched in a blaze of publicity in November 2005 but Mr Dempsey has already admitted that most of the key projects will not meet their target completion dates.

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