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Taxpayers face €10m bill think tank

taxpayers will be stuck with a €10m bill to host meetings for an international think tank.

Despite our struggling finances, Ireland is to chair the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).

Foreign Affairs Minister Eamon Gilmore will take charge of the body in 2012 which promotes "conflict prevention and resolution".

But while most TDs see the role as a huge honour, questions have been raised about whether we can afford the cost of hosting the OSCE.

As chairman of the think tank, Mr Gilmore will be tasked with appointing two special representatives to assist him with dealing with conflicts in Moldova and the South Caucuses.

Ireland is set to host a series of high-profile meetings that will draw senior government figures from 56 countries in Europe, Central Asia and North America next year.

Over 1,000 delegates will visit for a Ministerial Council in December 2012 alone -- an event which will cost us €5m to host.

The Department of Foreign Affairs, which released the figures to the Herald, claims the OSCE chairmanship will "result in a raised international profile and an opportunity to make a tangible contribution to the promotion of international peace and security".

Some 15 Department officials are working on "preparations" for the chairmanship in Dublin, with a 15 further deployed at Ireland's permanent mission to the OSCE in Vienna, Austria.

"Assignments are being made from existing staffing resources, from officers seconded by other countries and a small number of retired civil servants," a spokesperson said.

The cost of the chairmanship came under fire from People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett, who told the Herald that the organisation seemed "virtually powerless".