Politicians’ trip to rugby match costs taxpayer €2k

MORE than €2,000 of taxpayers’ money was spent on jetting the Taoiseach, Ceann Comhairle and two ministers from Dublin to Thomond Park in Limerick to see Munster take on the All Blacks.

The opening match for the new stadium took place on a Tuesday evening in November within hours of questions to the Taoiseach in the Dáil.

This meant that Brian Cowen and Ceann Comhairle John O’Donoghue needed to travel on the Air Corps Lear Jet in order to make it to Limerick in time for kick-off.

Minister for Defence, Willie O’Dea and Education Minister Batt O’Keeffe, who both represent Munster constituencies, travelled with them.

The trip was one of 83 flights, at a cost of e1.6 million, taken by the cabinet on Government jets and helicopters from last October to March.

Details obtained by RTÉ through the Freedom of Information Act show that 70 trips were taken on the Government’s three jets and 13 on helicopters. This indicates that Air Corps aircraft are used at least once a week or six times a month by Government.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin had 24 trips, including five to the North. The majority of the the other trips were to Brussels for EU meetings and he also flew to Washington, the Middle East and Cuba on state business.

Mr Cowen used the Air Corps on 16 occasions while Tánaiste Mary Coughlan travelled 11 times, including the use of the helicopter from Dublin to her constituency in Donegal.

In all there were 25 flights within the island of Ireland, of which 13 were by helicopter and 12 involving fixed wing aircraft which cost about e2,000 per journey.

The most expensive trip within Ireland cost almost e16,000 bringing the Taoiseach and nine ministers from Dublin to Derry to Dublin to Cork and back to Dublin again.

Minister for Agriculture Brendan Smith took 11 flights while Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern took eight, Minister for Transport Noel Dempsey and Mr Ahern both used the helicopter three times.

Health Minister Mary Harney took the Lear Jet on domestic flights twice at a cost of e4,000.

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