Cork City Council spent almost €50,000 sending 13 councillors and staff to San Francisco on a five-night “sister city” trip.
The trip involved a delegation drawn from all over Cork, including representatives from UCC, CIT, the Port of Cork, and local gardaí.
Details of the city council part of the visit, released under FoI, show how the delegation was taken on an escorted boat trip around San Francisco’s Bay area, and enjoyed an official reception after an evening baseball game.
The council also paid for a €9,000 entertainment evening on the rooftop of Hotel Via, a four-star hotel overlooking the home stadium of the San Francisco Giants baseball team and the city harbour.
Records from the local authority show the accommodation bill for the trip alone cost over €14,500.
The delegation was led by the Fianna Fáil former lord mayor Tony Fitzgerald, who was accompanied by his wife Georgina, with their costs paid by the city council.
Five other politicians — Independent Paudie Dineen, Fianna Fáil’s Terry Shannon, Fine Gael’s PJ Hourican, and Sinn Féin’s Shane O’Shea and Stephen Cunningham — travelled along with six council officials. The entire bill for the trip came to €48,921 with the cost of accommodation at the four-star Hilton in the Financial District making up the largest part of the tab.
Rooms at the hotel cost between $284 (€245) and $313 per night.
Transport cost just over $6,100 with an airport transfer on arrival billed for $615, and two separate days of coach hire costing $2,969 and $2,525 respectively. That allowed the delegation to fill a busy schedule of meetings with local politicians, local businesses, and time spent at an innovation hub and in Silicon Valley.
Flights for the 13-strong party cost €10,493, all booked via Heathrow as no direct route to the US west coast is available through Cork.
The local authority also paid out €8,826 in subsistence to those who travelled, paid mostly at the rate of €133 each day.
Tony Fitzgerald said: “The city is twinned with San Francisco and there’s major connections and various trade and commerce, arts and culture and community connections.
“As lord mayor, I was very proud and happy to lead the delegation to San Francisco, with representatives from all across Cork. We engaged with various sectors in San Francisco including Apple, which has its European headquarters in Cork.”
“The itinerary was quite extensive and the delegation is very confident it was of great benefit to the society.”
Cork City Council said there were also about 20 businesses on the delegation who funded their own trips and had benefitted from “networking opportunities and new synergies that were developed”.
“In order to capitalise on visits afar it is important that there is a diverse representation so that we can extend a broad reach… having a large delegation allowed us to cover more ground and meet a wider section of community, organisations and businesses,” it said.
The “sister city” trip was the return leg of a similar event that took place last year when a 90-person delegation from San Francisco visited Cork.