FG senators given free whiskey for Japan rugby trip
Fine Gael senators gave VIPs free bottles of whiskey from a drinks company that has previously given thousands of euro to the Irish parliamentary rugby team.
Irish Distillers, which distils many of Ireland's most popular whiskeys, gave the Dail and Seanad rugby team six free bottles of whiskey, worth nearly €400, for its trip to Japan for the inter-parliamentary Rugby World Cup earlier this month.
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The same company donated around €5,000 to cover food and drink after a match against the French parliamentary rugby team earlier this year. The Dail and Seanad team, which is made up of politicians and Oireachtas staff, also has other corporate sponsors to cover its costs.
Japan is seen as a key growth market for the Irish whiskey industry.
Irish Distillers said: "We can confirm that we provided the Dail and Seanad rugby team with six bottles of Irish whiskey for presentation at official events."
Fine Gael senators Anthony Lawlor, Maria Byrne, Neale Richmond and Catherine Noone were pictured on Mr Richmond's Facebook presenting a bottle of Green Spot whiskey to former Japanese prime minister Yoshiro Mori.
Mr Richmond said in a comment on the post that the bottle was bought in duty-free. But Irish Distillers said it was theirs. Mr Richmond subsequently told the Sunday Independent that the team bought six bottles in duty-free on their way to Japan. "We weren't going to ask them [Irish Distillers] for 12. That bottle was a duty-free one," he said.
Mr Richmond said corporate sponsorship pays for kit, venue hire, a match referee, a doctor and insurance in order to "maximise charitable donations". The team has raised around €7,000 for different charities and money for injured rugby players.
The four Fine Gael senators were the only politicians who made the trip, all insisting they paid their own way. The Oireachtas said it puts no money toward the team.
Other politicians who were invited but turned down the Japan trip expressed reservations about it. One TD said they declined over concerns "it wouldn't look great".