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President's office runs up €1m bill for honouring older Irish citizens

President Michael D Higgins's office has run up a million euro-plus bill for honouring older Irish citizens.

Some 423 people have been awarded the €2,540 gift and a personal letter from Mr Higgins for reaching the age of 100.

According to the President's office, the Centenarian Bounty was issued to 247 people in the Republic this year and another 98 in Northern Ireland.

Elsewhere, 48 people in Britain and another 30 overseas who celebrated their 100th birthday have been awarded the gift, bringing the total cost for the year to €1,074,420.

It is one of the highest totals recorded since the bounty was introduced decades ago and dwarfs the figure for last year when 326 received it.

The Department of Social Protection compiles a list of 100th birthdays each year and an inspector visits each person to confirm their entitlement before passing their details to the President's office in Aras an Uachtarain.

It is usually awarded on behalf of the president by a local member of the clergy or friend of the centenarian but the recipient can ask for no fuss.

The bounty was introduced by Douglas Hyde and in 1993 was extended to include all centenarians on the island of Ireland, regardless of citizenship.

This was again extended in 2006 to include all centenarians worldwide who were born on the island of Ireland.

Since 2000, the President has also marked birthdays of people over 100 by sending them a special commemorative coin in a presentation box and a congratulatory signed letter with a new coin designed each year.

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