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Ministers going abroad for St Patrick’s Day are an easy target and while the usual mantra about the return on the cost of the flights and five-star hotels is trotted out to justify the exodus, it is reasonable to ask where is the evidence for this claimed return on this investment.
It is also fair to ask why the same level of scrutiny over the cost of ministers’ travel isn’t applied to those from local government who also go on these trips and at their taxpayers’ expense too.
The argument that these trips bring business to Ireland is simply not credible because it is nonsense to argue that a business makes a decision to invest in Ireland on the basis of whether or not a minister attends the local St Patrick’s Day event.
Business investments are made on the basis of cold hard financial facts and even the warm glow of fuzzy Irishness and memories of those great St Patrick’s Day traditions of getting drunk, fighting and then throwing up on the street won’t seal the deal if the numbers don’t add up.
But it would be nice if the Government had the honesty to publish the full itinerary and cost of all those travelling in advance, and that it revert to its default position of fighting tooth and nail against every request for this information.
It may come as a surprise, but seeing the partner of the Taoiseach of the day in Washington DC doesn’t fill me with pride; it makes me wonder who paid for their fare.
The risk of these trips in these austere times is because in the long list of bills presented to the taxpayer, a choice is made to spend £100,000 plus sending minister’s and councillors all over the world, and that choice means the money their trips cost is money that isn’t going towards providing services for the most vulnerable in society.
I’m sure there are plenty of homes all over the country who would love to be able to pick and choose to spend their income on a lovely trip overseas but who have to instead go without a holiday and use their limited resources to keep a roof over their head and feed their family.
An interesting experiment would be to just send the Taoiseach to Washington DC next year.
Send send no one else anywhere and see what difference it makes to investment.
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