Wednesday 13 December 2017

Reilly hotel costs €2,500 on UN junket

Eilish O'Regan Health Correspondent

THE lunch was "low carb" but the hotel prices were high for Health Minister James Reilly during his latest junket to New York to attend a conference on lifestyle diseases.

The minister, who was accompanied by two officials, attended the United Nations (UN) high-level meeting on non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, heart conditions and stroke in the Big Apple from September 17-20.

He was accompanied by his private secretary Darragh Scully and the deputy chief medical officer in the Department of Health, Dr John Devlin.

Documents seen by the Irish Independent reveal he was among a party of four who dined at the The Press Box, a midtown bar and restaurant on Second Avenue, where they spent €45 sampling its "low carb" salad and burger.

However, they were also tempted by a side order of fries and had two sodas during the lunch with other delegates.

The delegation stayed at the Fitpatrick Grand Central Hotel where the bill for their three-night stay came in at a whopping €2,500, or €276 each a night.

The nightly cost is €129 higher than if they were staying in the same room this month -- but they paid no tax as it was arranged by the Irish Permanent Mission to the UN in New York.

The hotel, owned by Irish hotelier John Fitzpatrick, is near the UN building and hiked its prices to make the most of the influx of delegates to the event.

The minister and his officials each travelled economy class, with the flights bill coming to around €2,400 in total.

They were met by an official car on arrival but clocked up some taxi fares travelling around the city -- including one timed nearly 3am on the night before the minister and his private secretary returned home.

A spokesman for the Department of Health said that they were not out this late and the timing on the taxi docket was incorrect. The minister claimed €623 in subsistence, but asked that €46.69 be deducted from this sum for the cost of laundry and food, which he paid for out of his own pocket.

The correspondence reveals that the minister spoke at a number of the sessions looking at the impact of obesity on these conditions and he also delivered an address where he said illnesses like heart disease and diabetes were a "creeping catastrophe".

Not all expenses have yet been submitted to the Department of Health for reimbursement. This was the second major official trip by the minister and followed a €10,000 expedition to China.

Irish Independent

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