Thursday 14 December 2017

Not all diplomats rolling in style


FROM second-hand Skodas to luxury Land Cruisers, the mix 'n' match motors for our diplomats around the globe reveals not all of our ambassadors are rolling in style.

In fact, the most exotic car used by any of Ireland's ambassadors abroad is a Toyota Land Cruiser Prado VX, which set back the Department of Foreign affairs a total of €47,820, new documents obtained by the Sunday Independent under the Freedom of Information Act reveal.

The Land Cruiser is at the disposal of our ambassador to Tanzania, Fionnuala Gilsenan, who is based in the capital, Dar es Salaam.

The Japanese-built spacious four wheel drive is particularly popular – among those who can afford it – in parts of Africa where long distance driving can be a challenge due to poor road quality.

Ms Gilsenan has one of the widest briefs of any of our diplomatic staff, and is also accredited to Kenya, Burundi, Eritrea and parts of east Africa.

The next most expensive car on the list is the BMW 520, valued at €34,560, for one of our most important embassies in Asia, the South Korean capital, Seoul.

Another luxury model near the top of the price list is the BMW 730, which is allocated to our embassy in Paris – regarded by the diplomatic service as the most style-conscious capital in the world. The BMW cost just €30,700, but was purchased "second hand''.

The department said the individual cost of cars attached to our diplomatic service has been reduced in some cases because they were bought as part of a trade-in deal.

Another second-hand purchase is the Chevrolet Tahoe, which came with a price tag of €20,352 for our embassy in the Saudi Arabian capital, Riyadh.

Meanwhile, a South Korean car, the Hyundai Sonata, which was got for €22,497, is the vehicle attached to Beijing, capital of the People's Republic of China.

In Washington – the power centre of the US – the car of choice is a Mercedes that has been valued at a modest €22,462.

In Vienna and Strasbourg, a German model is the vehicle of choice in both countries; a Volkswagon Passat with a price tag of €24,990 and an Audi A5 valued at €24,995.

In the Dutch capital, The Hague, our diplomat drives a €24,867 Lancia Thea, while the Consulate General in New York drives a modest Volkswagon Passat costing just €14,996.

In Lisbon, the car of choice is a BMW 5 series priced at €19,987, while in the Slovenian capital, Ljubljana, a Skoda Superb was allocated, which has a current price tag of €15,600.

And inevitably in Rome, it's a Fiat – the Freemont model priced at €23,400.

The Department of Foreign Affairs said most of the cars on this list were bought in 2005 and 2006, and emphasised they are not purchased "for ambassadors or their families".

At all times they remain the property of the department.

While most of our diplomats have to contend themselves with modest motors, they can, at least, find some culinary consolation on their missions abroad.

Most employ full-time cooks – rather than be totally reliant on agency and other staff – for our diplomatic wining and dining abroad.

The average salary per cook employed by the diplomatic service is €20,470, which adds up to a total bill of €430,000 to pay 21 staff attached to a variety of embassies.

These include prestige locations such as Paris, Washington and London, but the same in-house system applies to postings in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, and Maseru, capital of Lesotho.

Meanwhile, the international property boom over the decades has also left the department sitting on something of a property boom, with some dramatic upturns in the value of buildings in sought-after locations that were purchased many years ago.

The ultimate example of this is our embassy in France, right in the middle of the salubrious Avenue Foch, which was bought for €193,000 – and which is now valued at €45m.

The initial capital spend on our diplomatic buildings in Washington was just over €150,000. But with the passing of the years, property experts say they are now worth nearly €7m.

"That's a feel-good factor – but only on paper – because in the main we tend to hang on to our slot in prestige locations. They are not for sale," a source in the Department of Foreign Affairs told the Sunday Independent.

Sunday Independent

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