A FIANNA FÁIL politician paid for her own flights and expenses on a city council-led delegation to China, it emerged last night.
Cork-based councillor Mary Shields confirmed that she dipped into her own pockets to the tune of more than €1,400 for the Shanghai visit despite the fact that public funds were available to cover the costs.
Concerns were raised last month when it emerged that the council has spent almost €37,000 of public money over the last two years on seven official trips to Shanghai — its highest profile twin city.
Independent Cllr Annette Spillane said she was concerned with the spending at a time when the local authority is being forced to reduce staff, slash overtime, and is struggling to maintain services.
But Cllr Shields said she took the decision to spend her own money to avoid any possible controversy about politicians’ expenses, especially in light of the current economic circumstances.
Hotel and meal costs in Shanghai were covered by the Chinese hosts.
Cllr Shields was among a nine-person delegation from Cork, including two councillors, two city officials, Cork Chamber president Joe Gantly, UCC professors Paul Giller and Fan Hong, CIT’s Ed Riordan, and Ms Li Hairong, the chairperson of Cork-based ATL International, which returned from a week-long visit to Shanghai last week to update the twinning arrangement.
The chairperson of the council committee which oversees the twinning arrangement between Cork and Shanghai, Cllr Shields said the trip was a huge success.
Cork Chamber signed a formal memorandum of understanding with the Shanghai Federation of Industry and Commerce (SFIC) — also known as the Shanghai Chamber of Commerce.
The delegation updated the twinning arrangement to guide relationships between the two cities until 2014, pledging to foster business, cultural, educational and tourism links.
Ms Shields said it is “imperative” that Ireland looks outward, and especially towards Asia in terms of business, education and tourism. “China is important as it will be a significant world power in the future,” she said.
Both cities have pledged to explore the potential of Cork as a destination for Chinese companies locating overseas.
The deal also includes participation by Cork in the Irish pavilion at the Shanghai World Expo in 2010, the extension of the Shanghai-Cork schools programme and the establishment of the Confucius classroom programme for schools in Cork.
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