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Monday 22 April 2019

FAS defends meeting in luxury hotel

Louise Hogan

TRAINING agency FAS, which is already under scrutiny from the taxpayer's watchdog, yesterday attempted to defend a decision to hold a meeting on the economic recession in a five-star luxury hotel.

FAS chairman Peter McLoone robustly backed the agency's spending record after it emerged that it was holding a meeting for its board members in the Mount Juliet Conrad Hotel in Co Kilkenny.

Last week, Tanaiste Mary Coughlan ordered the State's spending watchdog, the Comptroller and Auditor General, to examine the financial management of the agency.

Mr McLoone, who is general secretary of the trade union IMPACT, said FAS's board was "up there with the best" when it came to setting good examples.

"We don't make any misuse of taxpayers' money; in fact it's one of the things that concentrates our deliberations every single month, which is to get full value for the allocation that we get from the Exchequer," Mr McLoone told Newstalk radio.

The FAS chair said he did not have the details of the costs of the annual two-day meeting -- to review activities and assess the challenges ahead.

According to the website of the luxury golf and spa hotel, a room for one, including bed and breakfast, costs between €190 to €290 per night.

Mr McLoone said: "My major regret is that we cannot attract this level of publicity for the important and successful work that is done day in and day out by the employees of FAS."

Taoiseach Brian Cowen yesterday said the comptroller's report into the training body would ensure that the "good reputation of the organisation is upheld".

"I think we should let them get on with that work and wait to see what the outcome is," he added.

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