The cost of running Ireland’s embassies and consulates abroad increased by 10.5% last year to €74.6m.
Provisional figures for 2015 published by the Department of Foreign Affairs show the operation of 73 foreign missions last year cost an extra €7m than in 2014.
The latest figures, which cover staff costs, office costs, building rental and maintenance and other overheads, show the cost of Ireland’s diplomatic services has risen sharply since 2011 when the bill for operating 75 missions was just €55.9m The total cost for 2015 is likely to be more than €75m as no figure was provided for expenditure on the Irish embassy in Lesotho.
Last year’s figures also do not include the cost of Ireland’s seven multilateral missions, including its permanent missions to the UN in New York and Geneva and its representative office to the EU in Brussels.
The most expensive foreign outpost listed is the Irish embassy in London which cost more than €6m to run last year followed by the French embassy in Paris (€3m) and the consulate in New York (€2.8m).
No new embassies were opened or closed last year. In 2014, the diplomatic services were expanded with the opening of new missions in Austin, Texas, and the Croatian capital Zagreb, as well as the reopening of the embassy to the Vatican which was controversially closed three years earlier.
Ireland’s embassy to the Holy See in Rome which has only one staff — the ambassador, Emma Madigan — had the lowest running cost of all missions last year at just under €287,000.
Costs of running the embassy in the Nigerian capital of Abuja soared by 68%, rising from €606,671 in 2014 to €1.02m last year.
Expenditure on the consulate in San Francisco also rose by almost 52% to almost €976,000 — an increase linked to the extra workload on the consular services linked to the tragic death of six students when a balcony collapsed in Berkeley, California.
Overall, costs rose in two-thirds of embassies and consuls during 2015.
The three embassies which recorded the biggest reduction in costs were in Beijing (down 35% to €1.4m), Kuala Lumpur (down 27% to €478,000), and Moscow (down 25% to €965,000).
Ireland owns around a dozen properties which house its mission abroad — the most valuable being the Irish embassy on Avenue Foch in Paris which is valued at more than €45m.
In a written parliamentary reply to Independent TD Finian McGrath last week, Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan said the scale and presence of its diplomatic network is considered by the Government on an ongoing basis.
Meanwhile, consular assistance was provided to more than 2,300 Irish citizens who got into some difficulty in 2015.
The figure includes the practical support provided to the families of 263 people who died while abroad last year, including relatives of the Berkeley victims.
It represented a 21% increase on fatalities in 2014.
Mr Flanagan said there had been a sharp increase in the demand for frontline diplomatic and consular services across the globe last year as well as in the complexity of cases.
More than 800 Irish people needed assistance after getting caught up in some crisis while abroad.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved