FG cllr went on 18 trips last year costing €14,300

BILL: Travelling to Rio, Prague, and Amsterdam was 'vital to city'

Cormac Murphy

COUNCILLORS on a Dublin local authority racked up travel expenses of over €67,000 last year, including trips to Prague, Amsterdam and Rio de Janeiro.

The bill for one Fingal County councillor's journeys came to over €14,300.

Cllr Anne Devitt (FG) made 18 trips in 2010 to locations both in Ireland and abroad, costing a total of €14,332.13.

Among the journeys was a stay in the Killarney Plaza Hotel in Kerry and 12 trips to European destinations.

However, most of her trips entailed going to Brussels for a day in her capacity as president of the Airport Regions Conference (ARC).

She told the Herald while the bill is initially paid for by Fingal, the local authority is subsequently reimbursed by ARC.

Cllr Devitt admitted: "It looks bad (her expenses) but I can assure you it's not a jolly."

She said the trips to Brussels were particularly frequent because ARC had to hire a secretary general.

In all, taxpayers were left with a tab of €67,050.16 to cover the cost of Fingal attending conferences last year.

The sum was separate to the more than €730,000 paid to councillors in 2010 in representational payments, allowances and related expenses.

Labour councillor Ciaran Byrne's travel expenses bill for 2010 came to €10,350.81.

Among the journeys he undertook was a 12-day Fingal mayor's trip to South America to visit Argentina and Uruguay.

He also went on a mayor's trip to Shanghai in China and attended the Sixth European Conference on Sustainable Cities and Towns in France.

In relation the journey to China, Mr Byrne told the Herald he is trying to develop trade links with China.

He added that a group of industrialists are arriving in Dublin next week as a direct result of his visit.

"There is a delegation of 12 people -- senior industrialists with a view to a major investment in Fingal," he said.

He added that he is bringing the delegation to see Labour Minister of State Jan O'Sullivan while they are here.

Separately, Fingal's 24 representatives were paid €734,838.98 in salaries, allowances and office expenses last year. The sum works out at an average of €30,618.29 per councillor.

Due to his position as mayor in 2010, Cllr Byrne received the highest amount, being paid a total of €54,454, which includes the mayoral allowance.

He was followed by his party colleagues Tom Kelleher, who received €46,588, and Ken Farrell, who was paid €45,399.

Fingal published the figures on its website as part of an effort to be more transparent.