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Bill for State's luxury limos is cut to €1.3m

LUXURY State cars used by top Government officials cost the taxpayer €1.3m to keep on the road in 2011.

This is a major drop on 2010 when the fleet's running costs were €7.5m.

President Michael D Higgins, Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore, Justice Minister Alan Shatter, Chief Justice Susan Denham and Director of Public Prosecutions Clare Loftus all use cars in what is called the 'Office Holder' fleet.

The fleet consists of a number of saloon cars, mainly Audi, BMW, Lexus and Mercedes marques, Mr Shatter told the Dail in answer to a question from Deputy Jonathan O'Brien (SF).

The figure for the cars reflects the Coalition's austerity approach when compared to 2010 when the sight of a convoy of sleek ministerial cars pulling into Farmleigh for a Fianna Fail/Greens Cabinet meeting infuriated many voters.

A total of €7.5m was spent last year on the Office Holder fleet of 27 cars and 56 drivers.

In March, the Government announced that a substantial number of the cars would be sold off once the entitlement of ministers, former taoisigh and ex-presidents was ended.



HAPPY

The Justice Minister said at the time that he would be more than happy to get behind the wheel himself were it not for security advice from the Garda commissioner that the Minister for Justice and a small number of other senior office holders should retain cars and drivers.

He also admitted they probably would not fetch much as many of them were "almost past their sell-by date". Six former taoisigh -- Liam Cosgrave, Garret Fitzgerald, Albert Reynolds, John Bruton, Bertie Ahern and Brian Cowen -- and former president Mary Robinson were among those who lost out.

They are no longer entitled to around-the-clock official transport, although exceptions will be made on State occasions.

Cabinet ministers now have to supply their own cars, but they are entitled to mileage, and the State hires civilian drivers for them.

Garda drivers of most of the former car fleet have either been reassigned or have retired.

The luxury fleet has included high-spec Mercedes, Audi, Lexus and Volvo saloons. Former Green Party ministers favoured environmentally friendly Toyota Priuses.

mlavery@herald.ie


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