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Friday 23 August 2019

Ring defends €5,500 trip to Chicago for GAA club fundraiser

EVENT: Former Lord Mayor of Dublin Nial Ring (left), with Lucy McCaffrey, chairperson of Dublin Port Company, and Eamonn O’Reilly, chief executive. Photo Conor McCabe
EVENT: Former Lord Mayor of Dublin Nial Ring (left), with Lucy McCaffrey, chairperson of Dublin Port Company, and Eamonn O’Reilly, chief executive. Photo Conor McCabe
Wayne O'Connor

Wayne O'Connor

Former Lord Mayor of Dublin Nial Ring has defended spending by State-owned Dublin Port Company after it paid for him to travel to the US to speak at a fundraiser for his local GAA club.

Mr Ring told the Sunday Independent he could "fully justify" Dublin Port spending money on his stay in Chicago last September because it benefited children from his area.

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"I enjoyed the trip," he added.

Last week this newspaper revealed Dublin Port chief executive Eamonn O'Reilly spent almost €95,000 on his company credit card on flights, hotels and other expenses in 2018.

His expenses included a €5,500 airfare for Mr Ring to fly to Chicago.

Mr Ring has since defended the trip, saying the event he attended raised €80,000 for the GAA club he has been "a lifelong member of".

"I was invited by Dublin Port and it is part of their corporate social responsibility, which they are brilliant at in the north inner city," he said.

"They give out scholarships to kids, they are great supporters of Scoil Ui Chonaill, the local GAA club, for a long number of years.

"They invited me to go along, they invited [former Taoiseach] Enda Kenny, they had other people there speaking, etc, and we all spoke at it. Irish-Americans came in and the club raised 80 grand on the night of the dinner. That goes to kids in the inner city so, I mean, [I was] absolutely delighted that it went so well and delighted that I was invited over.

"It was my only trip abroad in the whole year and I fully justify it because it was for kids in the inner city."

Details from documents published by the Sunday Independent show the trip included a €1,600 stay for two at the Kimpton Hotel Palomar, and spending at Chicago Cut Steakhouse, Harry Caray's Tavern and Snickers Bar and Grill. He travelled to the US on September 17 as Dublin's Lord Mayor, and returned on September 21.

A sitting Lord Mayor also holds the "honorary admiral" title at Dublin Port. Mr Ring attended the Chicago event in this capacity and was accompanied on the trip by the company's communications manager Charlie Murphy.

"I don't think there were many restaurants because we were brought for a meal on the first day and we had the dinner the next night," Mr Ring said, before poking fun at a €33 bike ride the pair took on Chicago's famous Navy Pier considering his chequered history with bicycles.

Last year Mr Ring was criticised by cyclists when he parked the Lord Mayor's official car in a cycle lane at the launch of a Dublin city bus tour. He previously called for a crackdown on dangerous bike-users after he was knocked unconscious in a hit-and-run incident with a cyclist.

"The only thing I know that was spent was myself and Charlie [Murphy] went around the harbour on bicycles and, I believe that cost an enormous sum as well, but being a keen cyclist I was delighted to be able to participate in that," he joked.

The independent Dublin City councillor also said he was happy the semi-state company spent just under €7m on a garden, to "open Dublin Port" to the city.

"I would go back to the amount they spend on corporate social responsibility and scholarships for kids in the inner city, which is phenomenal, and all the work they do," Mr Ring said.

"When I was a kid it was behind walls. Dublin Port is now part of the community and whatever is being spent, and I know they have their internal checks, it has brought the port to the community and the community to the port, which is great because the port is the economic hub of the city and has a huge part to play in the economic life of the city."

It has been confirmed this weekend that consultancy firm Mazars has been asked to carry out a review of spending at the semi-state company.

It is understood that the review into spending on company credit cards and entertainment by Dublin Port staff will be carried out as a matter of urgency to confirm if expenditure was appropriate and properly authorised

Dublin Port did not wish to comment on the review.

Sunday Independent

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