Expenditure on Ireland’s embassies and diplomatic missions abroad fell by just 0.3% last year, despite the closure of three offices including the controversial decision to shut the embassy to The Vatican.
The cost of running our representative office in Timor Leste (otherwise known as East Timor) actually increased by 18% in 2012, despite the fact that it closed over the past 12 months.
New figures published by the Department of Foreign Affairs show spending on the 78 embassies and diplomatic mission fell to just under €52m last year — a reduction of just €149,630 on the previous year’s budget.
It followed the Government’s announcement in Nov 2011 of its decision to close Ireland’s embassies to the Holy See and Iran and the Irish representatives office in Timor Leste following a review of its network to achieve savings.
Eamon Gilmore, the foreign affairs minister, claimed at the time that the closure of the three missions would result in savings of €1.175m in a full year and an estimated €480,000 in 2010.
Mr Gilmore explained that full savings from the closures would not be achieved until 2013 due to disengagement costs including severance payments to local staff and the running down of rental and other contracts.
Figures show the actual savings from the closure of the three missions last year totalled €459,226 — just over €20,000 short of the predicted estimate.
However, the cost of the Irish representative office in the Timor Leste capital of Dili last year rose by 18% last year to just over €150,000, despite the fact that it closed last October.
A spokesperson for Mr Gilmore said the increase was explained by higher rent and communication charges in 2012.
Spending on the embassy to The Vatican fell from over €400,000 in 2011 to just €7,334 last year.
Net savings from the embassy’s closure is expected to reach €845,000 this year due to the transfer of staff from the embassy to Italy which is also based in Rome to the State-owned Villa Spada which housed the mission to the Holy See. Nevertheless, the cost of the Irish embassy to Italy also rose by 8% to €1.24m, despite reduced rental costs.
Mr Gilmore has insisted that the decision was taken purely on cost grounds but the issue will not be revisited in the near future. However, the Tánaiste has also stated that the Government will regularly review the structure of the diplomatic network in light of the country’s priority needs and the availability of resources.
Meanwhile, the figures show the Government’s permanent representative office to the EU in Brussels is the most expensive mission with an annual running cost of just under €3.5m.
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