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Jetsetting TD Cullen runs up €10,500 St Patrick's Day bill

THE St Patrick's Day travels of jetsetting Arts, Sport and Tourism Minister Martin Cullen to Houston and Miami cost the taxpayer €10,500.

The minister, who was recently at the centre of controversy over his use of State helicopters, flew first class to America, while his private secretary flew economy class.

According to the minister's bill for the St Patrick's Day trip across the Atlantic, the two flights cost €7,850, accommodation €1,607, local transport €600 and "sundry expenses" €285.

The €10,500 bill is substantially down on his trip to Atlanta and Miami last year, which cost €21,133.

Over the course of last week's five day trip to Houston and Miami, Mr Cullen attended the Seatrade Cruise Shopping Convention in Miami to "consolidate cruise liner business at Irish ports". He also met with Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines about developing Irish tourism links.

The itineraries of all 17 ministers who travelled abroad last week were provided to the Irish Independent after the numbers taking to the skies for the March 17 festivities were halved in a bid to cut costs.

Last year, the bill for 33 ministers amounted to €523,621.

It is expected that this year's bill should see that amount halved.

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