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Wednesday 26 June 2019

Frugal Hanafin's foreign trips cost taxpayers less

Shane Phelan Investigative Correspondent

WHEN it comes to foreign travel costs, some cabinet ministers are much more frugal than others.

One example is Social and Family Affairs Minister Mary Hanafin (right).

On the majority of her trips abroad, Ms Hanafin has proved a lot more economical than other leading politicians, according to documents released under the Freedom of Information Act.

Since taking up her portfolio in May last year, Ms Hanafin has accounted for €13,600 in foreign travel expenses across 10 trips.

To put this spending in context, her predecessor Martin Cullen accounted for €17,500 on one foreign visit alone while he was Social and Family Affairs Minister.

Records show that in the majority of cases in the past 18 months, Ms Hanafin flew economy class. This included one transatlantic flight to Boston for the funeral of Special Olympics founder Eunice Kennedy Shriver.

A flight to Brussels last March for a meeting of European social ministers cost just €9.98 before taxes and charges were applied.

Another flight to Brussels last December cost €13.98 before taxes and charges were added.

Car transfers used by Ms Hanafin on European trips also appear to have cost much less than those of other ministers.

Car hire on a one-day visit to Stockholm for an OECD conference in May cost €185. This compares with costs exceeding €900 for day-long car hire for other ministers' visits to European cities.

Out of the 10 foreign trips, only one featured expensive car hire. This was Ms Hanafin's journey to Philadelphia and Atlanta for St Patrick's Day festivities this year.

Four days' car hire in Philadelphia cost €2,000, while two days' car hire in Atlanta cost just under €1,700. The costs for Atlanta included transport for IDA, Enterprise Ireland and Department of Foreign Affairs officials.

The total costs run up by Ms Hanafin on that US trip were €8,600. Of this €4,400 was spent in flights.

The previous year, Mr Cullen ran up a €17,500 bill from a similar St Patrick's Day trip to the US. Mr Cullen visited Miami and Atlanta, with flights costing €7,750.

On the Atlanta leg of the journey, a coach and limo service was kept on call for 60 hours over a five-day period. This led to a bill of €4,650. The costs included transport for embassy officials and local St Patrick's Day organisers.

A chauffeur service was also on standby for 20 hours over three days in Miami, leading to a €1,540 bill.

Mr Cullen also used a VIP suite at Heathrow Airport on both the outward and return journeys. This cost €418 on each occasion.

A further €285 was spent on chauffeur transfers between airport terminals.

Fionnan Sheahan's Analysis: Page 31

Irish Independent

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