Sunday 22 April 2018

Foreign travel drought for TDs and senators

Aine Kerr

GLOBETROTTING TDs and senators have had their wings clipped and have remained at home instead of partaking in fact-finding missions and conferences.

Only €35,000 of taxpayers' money has been spent by the Oireachtas committees on travel so far this year, compared to up to €500,000 in previous years.

Instead of trips to Australia, Canada, South Africa and the US, TDs and senators have this year been staying closer to home and travelling to the likes of Galway, Kildare, Belfast, Cork and Shannon.

According to documents released under the Freedom of Information Act, there have been just six trips abroad in the first six months of this year. These involved short hops to Brussels, Madrid, The Hague and Paris.

In 2008, TDs and senators racked up travel bills of €400,000, before reducing this to €150,000 in 2009.

But this year's bill is set to be the lowest in years after Finance Minister Brian Lenihan ordered Oireachtas committees to cut back on their ventures abroad.

In previous years, foreign trips drew an annual budget of €695,000. This year, the committees were given a budget of €270,000 but will now spend only a small fraction of the allocation.

Under strict new Department of Finance rules, all travel proposals have to be approved by the group of committee chairmen, who then advise on the rules governing travel and accommodation.

Committees have turned down invitations, travelled in smaller numbers and to less far-flung locations.

Compared to 2008, when the Oireachtas committees undertook around 100 trips to places such as Monaco, Cairo, Washington and Victoria, there were only 29 trips in the first eight months of 2009.

That has decreased to just 15 trips -- mostly in Ireland -- in the opening six months of this year.

The most expensive trip so far this year was to Vancouver by Fianna Fail's Camillus Glynn, Fine Gael's James Bannon and an official. Their attendance at the Globe Conference came to €6,755. Last year's most expensive was to Edmonton, also in Canada, at a cost of €14,289.

Irish Independent

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