Friday 19 October 2018

Controversial FG senator says China trip was not paid for by taxpayers

FG senator Fidelma Healy-Eames will return from China today
FG senator Fidelma Healy-Eames will return from China today

Fiach Kelly Political Correspondent

CONTROVERSIAL Fine Gael senator Fidelma Healy-Eames is insisting another foreign trip she is on is funded privately and not by the taxpayer.

However, the exact cost of the week-long educational trip to China with UCC is still unknown.

Galway-based Ms Healy-Eames was in hot water this summer when she went on a Voluntary Services Overseas (VSO) trip to Rwanda.

And she will return from a China trip later today, where she was the only Oireachtas member among the 25-strong party.

It is understood to have been organised by the Confucius Institute at UCC.

Confucius Institutes are non-profit organisations that aim to promote Chinese language and culture.

A spokesperson for UCC did not respond to queries on the funding of this specific trip, but Ms Healy-Eames insisted it was funded privately.

"Hanban (the Office of Chinese Language Council International) and Confucius Institute UCC are paying for the trip for myself and 24 teachers and principals from across the country," Ms Healy-Eames said.

"I am the only Oireachtas member on the privately funded trip. We visited the Irish consulate and staff in Shanghai, met Enterprise Ireland and Tourism Ireland and discussed the growth of English language teaching of Chinese nationals in Ireland – visas are an issue."

It comes just months after Ms Healy-Eames' controversial VSO trip to Rwanda, where she carried out the voluntary work as part of the 'Politicians for Development' programme and was advising a minister in Rwanda on early childhood education.

Ms Healy-Eames, who is the chair of China-Ireland relations organisation, spoke to a group of 120 Chinese alumni of Irish universities at an event organised by the Irish consulate on Friday.

"We are at an exciting juncture in the development of new and improved relations as highlighted by the respective trips of Xi-Jinping to Ireland and An Taoiseach to China," she said.

Irish Independent

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