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Department racks up €11m furniture bill since 2007

THE Department of Foreign Affairs has spent more than €11m on furniture, furniture removals and small household items for its Dublin headquarters and missions abroad since the onset of the financial crisis in 2007, the Sunday Independent can reveal.

New figures released to this newspaper under the Freedom of Information Act show just how determined our diplomats have been to keep up appearances at the expense of taxpayers, notwithstanding the deplorable condition of Ireland's public finances.

Just as the global financial bubble was about to burst in 2007 for instance, the Department splashed out €2,720,728 on furniture and fittings, €326,879 on furniture removals and €515,291 on small household items.

Even as the Irish economy collapsed in 2008, the Mandarins in Iveagh House apparently saw no reason to curb their expenditure. In that year, spending on furniture jumped to €2,749,671, while the cost of furniture removals hit €304,281. The bill for small household items across the country's 70 overseas missions came in at €505,892.

Thankfully, 2009 saw some semblance of sanity being brought to the cost of keeping our diplomatic corps in the style to which they have so obviously become accustomed. The furniture bill for that year came in at €1,413,520 while the costs for furniture removals dropped to €193,127. Our men and women overseas still managed to spend €361,381 on small household items however.

In 2010, the Department spent €1,266,536 on furniture for its embassies and missions abroad and €151,324 on furniture removals.

The loss of Ireland's economic sovereignty with the arrival of the EU/IMF/ECB troika in November 2010 would seem to be reflected in the precipitous drop in the spending by the Department on the same items in 2011.

According to the records, the department spent a relatively meagre €152,000 on furniture, €116,000 on furniture removals and €178,000 on small household items last year.

Asked for specific records on its expenditure in 2010 and 2011 at two of Ireland's leading department stores, Arnotts and Brown Thomas, the department released additional information revealing the purchase of just nine items.

In the case of Arnotts, the department spent €3,398 on a bedstead and mattress, €2,528 on a mattress and two linked single beds, €158.40 on curtains and €355 on a crystal lamp and shade. All six items were purchased in 2010 according to the records.

In the case of Brown Thomas, the department spent just €255 on a coffee machine and supply of coffee on October 19 last.

Sunday Independent