Saturday 20 July 2019

'I flew to Belfast due to PSNI issue': President

Michael D Higgins. Photo: Liam McBurney/PA Wire
Michael D Higgins. Photo: Liam McBurney/PA Wire
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

President Michael D Higgins has admitted he flew to an event in Belfast last May while a car drove from Dublin to pick him up at the airport.

He blamed the PSNI for not being able to provide security from the Border.

His election rivals have repeatedly questioned his travel arrangements on May 29 last, suggesting they came to an unwarranted expense to the taxpayers.

Mr Higgins was in Belfast to address the Sixth Annual Harri Holkeri Lecture, which is organised by the Senator George J Mitchell Institute for Global Peace, Security and Justice.

He said that ahead of trips to Belfast his office take part in consultations with the PSNI "about where they will pick me up".

The President acknowledged there was an issue on the day in question but the "important thing" was to give the lecture as there were people from "all sides" of the community present.

Referring to his use of the Government's Learjet for the short trip, he said: "This was in fact the only way I could do it in time."

The hourly cost of flying the Learjet is estimated by the Department of Defence to be €3,780 per hour.

Records show that in the first three months of this year, Mr Higgins used the jet to travel to London, Belfast, Athens and Kerry.

The total flight time cost was close to €50,000 for these trips.

Assistant Chief Constable Alan Todd said: “It is a long established policy of the Police Service of Northern Ireland not to comment on the security arrangements made for individuals.  The Police Service of Northern Ireland routinely work with visiting Heads of State and other key figures visiting Northern Ireland and make full provisions for their safety in line with their requirements.”

Irish Independent

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