DUBLIN Lord Mayor Oisin Quinn has travelled to Mexico and the US on a 10-day trip costing taxpayers €13,500.
He is being accompanied by Dublin City Manager Owen Keegan and international relations official Peter Finnegan as they visit Mexico City, Guadalajara and San Jose.
THE ANNUAL TRADE MISSION, WHICH LEFT ON TUESDAY, IS SCHEDULED TO COINCIDE WITH ST PATRICK'S DAY FESTIVITIES.
Some €6,200 is going on air fares alone.
The bill has raised eyebrows, but a spokesman pointed out that the group is travelling economy class.
In Mexico City they will stay in the InterContinental Hotel in the Polanco district and the Fiesta Americana Grand Hotel in Guadalajara.
They will be joined on Saturday by independent councillor Mannix Flynn and Labour's Hugh McGarr for the San Jose leg, staying in the Fairmont Hotel.
"This is not a junket. There is a massive schedule of work. It's all business. There is very little time for leisure. We get one day off. For someone to say this is a junket is wrong. This is far from it," said Mr Flynn.
"This is a working mission. The Lord Mayor goes to Mexico beforehand to do a whole load of work. He works like a Trojan there. It's certainly not some sort of St Patrick's Day knees-up."
A council spokesman said: "The primary purpose of the Mexican leg is to attract investors and small businesses wishing to access Europe through Dublin.
"Dublin and Guadalajara signed a digital friendship agreement last year."
A briefing document draws attention to links between Mexico and Ireland.
"Not a lot of people know this, but Mexican folk-hero Zorro, immortalised in novels by New York pulp writer Johnston McCulley and featured in 40 films, was Irish," it says.
The main part of the itinerary involves a visit to Silicon Valley between March 9 and 13.
The council group is part of a 20-person delegation from Dublin's business and higher education communities, the city authority said.
"This mission will promote Dublin as a location for investment and business start-up," a spokesman said.
"Dublin is twinned with Silicon Valley's capital, San Jose. This relationship plays a crucial role in Dublin's emergence as the tech capital of Europe."