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Taxpayers handed a €9,500 bill for photos of Cabinet members posing with Obama

IT IS the photograph that surely has pride of place on every minister's wall.

The taxpayer paid out €1,000 so members of the Cabinet and other dignitaries could have their very own picture with US President Barack Obama, the Irish Independent has learnt.

However, Taoiseach Enda Kenny's department has refused to release copies of the pictures because they were "for personal use only".

The cost of the Obama prints was revealed in new figures from Mr Kenny's department that show it is spending an extra €900-a-month on photography compared with Brian Cowen's regime.

Pictures with the popular US leader, both during St Patrick's Day functions at the White House and during his brief visit last May, cost €9,500 over two years.

This accounts for almost 20pc of the department's total €51,500 spend on photography in 2010 and 2011.

And it includes the €1,000 spent on what the department called "mementos" of Mr Obama's visit, when he posed for pictures with every cabinet minister; dignitaries such as former president Mary Robinson; Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams; and representatives of the public sector.

The pictures were taken by the official White House photographer and sent "as a courtesy" to the department before being printed by Dublin agency Maxwell Photography.

The Department of the Taoiseach confirmed that ministers did not have to pay for the prints, saying: "The pictures were provided as a memento of the occasion, so a contribution was not sought from the subjects."

A spokesman said they were "official photographs" and therefore it was "appropriate" that the cost be met by the Taoiseach's department.

However, while photographs of the Obamas with stars such as Jedward and boxer Katie Taylor were released to the public, the shots of Mr Obama with various cabinet ministers have been deemed "for personal use only".

A spokeswoman for Mr Kenny accounted for the spending increase saying that it reflected "exceptional events" during 2011, including the visits of Mr Obama and Queen Elizabeth, which she said came to a combined €10,600.

She said: "When this is taken into account, it is clear that the year-on-year cost is significantly reduced were it not for these exceptional events."

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