ENVIRONMENT Minister Phil Hogan racked up a €9,000 bill on a 24-hour taxpayer-funded trip to Luxembourg, the Sunday Independent can reveal.
Mr Hogan and four senior department officials jetted into Luxembourg on business class fights and stayed in a luxurious five-star hotel to attend a one-day European Council meeting.
During his stay in June last year, Mr Hogan bought a €47 round of drinks which should have been subtracted from his expenses, but was not deducted until the Sunday Independent queried the charge.
The department said it was an 'administrative error' which will be rectified in the minister's next expenses claim.
The delegation that included senior civil servants clocked up €6,698 on flights alone to Luxembourg.
Details of the state-funded jaunt were released by the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government under the Freedom of Information Act.
Before leaving Dublin on June 20 last year, Mr Hogan and one of his special advisers paid €48 to relax in the airport's VIP lounge.
Mr Hogan flew out of Dublin on an Air France flight at 5.15pm and after a brief stopover in Amsterdam landed at Luxembourg Airport around 10pm.
Mr Hogan and his entourage checked into the Le Royal Hotel in central Luxembourg, where the travel weary politician paid €47.10 for 'beverages' in the hotel's bar. A department spokesman said the round of drinks was bought at the minister's own expense and should have been deducted from his expenses.
"Generally what would happen is when a minister is reconciling his claims that money would be deducted from his claim by his private secretary," he said.
"On this occasion his private secretary did not do that. It should have been deducted from his claim and it will be deducted from his next one."
The delegation, which included the minister's assistant secretary, private secretary and a principal officer, stayed in the hotel's €182-a-night executive rooms.
Following a morning of meetings, Mr Hogan headed back to Luxembourg Airport and travelled business class to Dublin via Paris at 4.35pm.
The department spokes-man said the delegation travelled first class because there were no economy class tickets available.
The same delegation spent two nights in Luxembourg attending an identical EU meeting four months later in October but this time the trip cost almost half the original trip at €4,662.55.
The Irish deputation did not fly business class and they stayed in the more modest €100-a-night Hotel Francais for one night. The trip even included a train journey to Brussels, where Mr Hogan's contingent stayed in the €215-a-night Hotel Berlaymont.
Mr Hogan and his department have spent almost €92,000 travelling to Europe and the rest of the world since he took office in March last year. The most expensive jaunt so far was a €28,847 trip to Durban, South Africa, to attend the COP 17 Climate Change Conference in Durban in December last year.
Mr Hogan's delegation stayed six nights in the beach front Blue Water Hotel.
Flights for the department's controversial three-day trip to the UN Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio earlier this summer cost €7,347 for four of the members of the mission who attended.
Accommodation costs for the group were the subject of much discussion between department officials and Ireland's Brazilian embassy and the final hotel bill for the trip has not yet been finalised.
However, it was revealed that six members of the group dined out on the taxpayers' expense clocking up a €842.66 in one of the city's famous steak houses.
Those two idealogues in Government, Leo Varadkar and Pat Rabbitte, last week chose that Official Ireland love-in, the MacGill Summer School, to sound off on the future of the media in a debate entitled 'The Media and Democracy'.