State scales back St Patrick’s Day trips for ministers

Ministers travelling abroad as part of scaled back St Patrick’s Day visits this year have been banned from flying first class, hiring limousines, or using hotel suites.

State scales back St Patrick’s Day trips for ministers

Ministers travelling abroad as part of scaled back St Patrick’s Day visits this year have been banned from flying first class, hiring limousines, or using hotel suites.

The cull in the annual exodus of ministers to far-flung locations comes as other countries battle to prevent the spread of coronavirus and as the outgoing Government prepares for opposition.

In all, Cabinet members will travel to 10 locations, most in the US, for the annual St Patrick’s Day celebrations.

Tánaiste Simon Coveney this year has ordered that ministers must not avail of costly facilities amid a clampdown on luxury spends which the taxpayer traditionally foots.

Costs for trips, including flights and hotels, must be kept to a minimum.

There has been a ban on first-class flights, hotel suites, and the hiring of limousines.

Acting Taoiseach Leo Varadkar along with eight ministers will represent Ireland abroad for the national holiday.

Mr Varadkar will lead a mission that will include the annual bilateral meeting with US president Donald Trump in the White House.

Mr Coveney is set to travel to New York.

Other ministers visiting the US include Business Minister Heather Humphreys, going to Sacramento; Agriculture Minister Michael Creed, travelling to Chicago; Rural Affairs Minister Michael Ring, visiting Boston, and defence minister Paul Kehoe, going to Savannah.

Attorney General Seamus Wolfe will also travel to New York.

Elsewhere, Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe will visit Paris and Brussels while Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan will go to Berlin.

Education Minister Joe McHugh had been due to travel to Canada for the annual celebrations but both he and Health Minister Simon Harris will remain at home amid efforts to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Cabinet agreed the locations based on the fact that the destinations being of “indisputable and immediate value” to Ireland’s interests and having as those regions have a “significant diaspora community”.

Some of the key messages that ministers have been asked to deliver while visiting other countries for the St Patrick’s Day festivities include are that Ireland remains a dedicated member of the EU and that the country is working towards a close trading relationship with the UK post-Brexit.

They also have been asked to promote the country’s economy and global visibility.

Meanwhile, Mr Varadkar announced efforts to help communities affected by recent flooding.

Some €1bn had already been agreed under the national development plan, he said, while Mr Creed and others were assessing how farmers could be helped with more resources.

Hundreds of flood schemes are under way, said Mr Varadkar, while dozens of home owners impacted by previous floods had been offered works as well as new places to live.

Some €6.7m is also being set aside for Met Éireann as it prepares to work with forecasters from other EU countries to help to improve short-range weather predictions.

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