Tánaiste Simon Coveney has defended the sending of a naval vessel to New York next week as part of Ireland's bid to land a seat on the United Nations Security Council.
Mr Coveney stood over the decision to deploy the vessel amid Dáil criticism that the ship will be used to “wine and dine” UN officials.
The Tánaiste confirmed the deployment to Fianna Fáil's Defence spokesman Jack Chambers who raised questions in the Dáil on whether it had "serious business" in the US.
Mr Coveney said that in addition to its duties in New York, a naval service vessel will also be visiting other cities on the east coast with large Irish populations.
“They essentially will be playing an ambassadorial role in terms of not just the Security Council campaign – that’s only one element of what they’re doing – they’re also reaching out to the Irish diaspora in big Irish cities on the east coast. This is not new,” he said.
The government has to date spent €650,000 on the bid to win out over Norway and Canada and take a Security Council seat from 2021 to 2022.
Mr Chambers queried the purpose of sending a naval service vessel to New York.
He raised concerns about recent reports of naval ships being left in dock and unable to meet service level agreements for its duties around Ireland.
He also raised the recruitment and retention crisis in the Defence Forces and the "considerable costs" already incurred on the bid for the UN role.
"Can you tell me what the purpose of that trip is? Is it to wine and dine UN officials or is there serious business going on there?" he asked.
Meanwhile, Mr Varadkar has written to all Fine Gael TDs senators and MEPs telling them to prepare for four by-elections in November.
Mr Varadkar warned that only one of the seats is a potential gain for Fine Gael. The Taoiseach conceded that it is “very rare” for parties in government to win by-elections. However, he maintained they had good candidates.