€32k for Patrick’s Day US flights

Business-class flights for the Taoiseach and members of his staff for the annual St Patrick’s Day visit this year cost the taxpayer over €32,000.

Figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act found €32,281 was spent by the Irish State for the transatlantic flights as well as internal flights in the US, as part of Leo Varadkar’s visit.

The Taoiseach and his staff flew from Dublin to Austin, then from Austin to Dallas, from Dallas to Washington, and finally from New York to Dublin.

Along with his chief of staff, Brian Murphy, he flew business class on the two transatlantic flights and economy class on the two internal flights.

Another business class flight, on the outbound journey from Dublin, was taken by John Callinan, assistant secretary to the Taoiseach.

However, he availed of economy class on the other three flights.

The rest of the Taoiseach’s party were in economy seats for all flights. They included secretary general Martin Fraser, Government press secretary Nick Miller, special adviser John Carroll, and private secretary Nick Reddy, as well as a personal assistant and security to the Taoiseach.

Leo Varadkar during an interview at the South by South West festival in Austin, Texas on March 11
Leo Varadkar during an interview at the South by South West festival in Austin, Texas on March 11

The flights for Mr Varadkar and Mr Murphy cost €5,808.91 each to the Irish State and €4,238.54 for Mr Callinan. The six economy-class flyers for all four flights cost €2,708.24 per person.

Flights for Mr Varadkar, Mr Murphy, and Mr Callinan totalled close to €16,000, almost as expensive as the six flyers in economy class.

An additional €175.96 was spent on one cancelled flight from Dallas to Washington to make up the total cost of €32,281.76.

Figures given to the Irish Examiner through an FOI were only in relation to air travel. Costs relating to accommodation and food were not included in the response.

While in Washington, Mr Varadkar stayed as a guest of US President Donald Trump in Blair House, across from the White House, and so no expense was incurred.

The Taoiseach hosted a dinner for the media in New York and his delegation stayed in Fitzpatrick’s Hotel in Manhattan. The department said other invoices relating to the trip had not yet been either received or processed.

Since 1956, it has been an annual event to present a bowl of shamrock to the US president. It has been formalised over the years and now the Taoiseach is usually in the US for over a week.


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