Dublin Bikes to be made free to EU delegates during Irish presidency in cost cutting measure
TOP brass European delegates will get free passes for Dublin's rental bikes for travelling to major events during Ireland's EU presidency.
Senior political figures like European Council president Herman Van Rompuy could be among those given the special offer, as the Government attempts to cut costs during its six-month term.
Minister of state for European Affairs Lucinda Creighton said this was just one of a number of efforts to ensure value for money and sustainability.
"Delegates will be staying close to the city centre which will give them the opportunity to avail themselves of free access to Dublin Bikes," said Ms Creighton.
"The proximity to the city will also allow visitors to experience Dublin city and I hope that most will avail themselves of that opportunity."
Other belt-tightening measures will see tap water used instead of bottled water at meetings and a strict cut back in stationery and mementoes.
The majority of presidency-related events will take place at Dublin Castle, which will serve as headquarters.
All other venues that will be used are state-owned and operated by the Office of Public Works. Farmleigh will also be used.
The Dublin Bikes scheme was rolled out in 2009, bringing the city in line with other cycle-friendly cities, such as Amsterdam, Copenhagen and Berlin.
There are 44 rental stations dotted throughout the city, with a total 550 bikes available.
Offering delegates free passes for the bikes is a far cry from the chauffeur-driven luxury cars they were treated to during Ireland's last presidency in 2004 as the Celtic Tiger began to roar.
The total cost of the last term was an estimated 110 million euro. Ms Creighton said the State expects to spend around 60 million euro this time round, with some additional security costs.
"Throughout our preparations we have striven for value for money and sustainability," she said.
"Dublin Castle, also in the city centre, is set to be our presidency headquarters and is where the bulk of our events are set to take place."
Organisers have also tried to ensure the six-month term is as paperless as possible - both to save money and reduce the presidency's carbon footprint.
Video conferencing between Dublin and Brussels in the run-up to the term, which begins on January 1, has seen a reduction in files and documents.
And the host broadcaster has plans to transmit its footage digitally - to save on using tapes.
"Large volume handbooks will not be printed in hard copy, nor will the main presidency programme," Ms Creighton added. "All documents will be available for download on the presidency website."