Cancelled trip to Davos in January cost €8,500, according to newly released details

Cancelled trip to Davos in January cost €8,500, according to newly released details
Leo Varadkar had been due to travel to the international financial conference in Switzerland in January but decided to stay in Ireland as the general election campaign got into full swing. Picture:Gareth Chaney/Collins

The Department of the Taoiseach has paid out €91,500 on overseas travel costs over the past six months including nearly €8,500 in bills for Leo Varadkar’s cancelled trip to Davos.

Mr Varadkar had been due to travel to the international financial conference in Switzerland in January but decided to stay in Ireland as the general election campaign got into full swing.

Almost six months after the Department of the Taoiseach was first asked for costs incurred during the aborted visit, they released the details this week.

In a statement, they said that €5,794 had been spent on “ground transport” for the event but that it had been possible to recoup all but €2,317 of that.

They also spent €6,415 on accommodation for the event, but did not provide further detail on the location or the nature of the accommodation.

The Department had been asked to provide copies of invoices and receipts involved.

A spokeswoman for the Department said: “There was no refund applicable to the accommodation costs in the event of cancellation, so the net cost to the Department remained €6,145.

“However, the accommodation was used by the Irish Ambassador and other embassy staff who represented Ireland at Davos, in lieu of attendees from Dublin.” 

The Department said costs associated with the conference were often high due to the number of attendees and the security arrangements that apply.

The spokeswoman said: “Securing accommodation and transport arrangements proves challenging every year.” 

Separately, the Department has also published details of foreign travel invoices paid out over the past six months, including almost €47,000 in flights for St Patrick’s Day.

Seven flights to the USA were paid for in April to cover travel for officials including the Assistant Government Press Secretary, a special adviser, the Department Secretary General, and the Taoiseach’s Chief of Staff.

The total bill for those flights came to €12,677.

In May, a further €34,020 in airline costs – including change fees after the St Patrick’s Day visit had to be cut short – were run up for flights for Mr Varadkar himself, his security detail, and the rest of his team.

Other bills paid by the Department of the Taoiseach since the start of the year include €1,045 for the use of an airport lounge in Copenhagen for Mr Varadkar’s visit to Denmark last October.

Significant car hire costs were also paid off covering several visits to Brussels by the then Taoiseach.

This included €3,068 on a trip in December 2018, €2,785 on a visit in March 2019, and €2,395 for a European Council meeting in October of last year.

The Department also ran up a near €9,000 bill for accommodation at the Fitzpatrick Grand Central Hotel in New York last September during the UN Summit on Climate Action.

This covered a four-night stay in the USA for a Second Secretary General, a Private Secretary to the Minister for European Affairs, the Assistant Government Press Secretary, the Taoiseach’s Chief of Staff, the Taoiseach’s Private Secretary, his security detail, and Mr Varadkar himself.

Mr Varadkar’s personal bill for the three nights of accommodation from September 22 to September 25 was €1,342.

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