More than four weeks ago I put an FOI request to Enterprise Ireland for the following:
1) A list of journalists who visited India with then Tourism Minister John O’Donoghue, at the request of Enterprise Ireland between January 15 and January 24, 2006.
2) A list of all representatives of Enterprise Ireland who visited India between those dates.
3) The total cost of flights, accommodation, hospitality, and any other costs borne by Enterprise Ireland for the trip, and a breakdown of the expenses details claimed by anyone, either from Enterprise Ireland, the press corps, or any member of the Government.
This request was sent at the same time as I sent a request to the Department of Education seeking the expenses of Mary Hanafin for that trip, which I blogged about on October 1. My effort is to try and understand exactly the cost of the entire trade mission to India in 2006. To do this I have to request information from a range of bodies which bore costs for the trip, with Enterprise Ireland among them. More details of this particular trip also appeared in yesterday’s Sunday Tribune.
However the story has also moved on a bit since I received these documents on Friday afternoon. On RTE’s This Week yesterday, Social and Family Affairs Minister Mary Hanafin was asked about the expenses:
Q: Was it 5 star travel minister, and 5 star accommodation throughout?
A: It was certainly business class flights, em, and there were good hotels. But to my knowledge, the Indian government picked up the tab for a lot of the accommodation, em, because obviously from an insurance point of view…
Except, in at least four instances, it was not business class flights. And hotel costs appear to have only been paid for very senior members of the traveling party.
According to the documents I received on Friday, then Enterprise Minister Micheal Martin flew First Class to India at a cost of €7,390.62. Not alone that, his private secretary Bridget Flynn and Assistant Secretary at the Department of Enterprise Brian Whitney also flew first class, at a cost of €7,330.50 each. The chief executive of Enterprise Ireland, Frank Ryan, also flew first class, and also at a cost of €7,330.50 to the taxpayer. All other members of the traveling party, including three journalists, flew business class.
Is it so certain now, Ms Hanafin? Though I imagine her reply would be that she was *only* referring to her own flight.
And you would infer from Ms Hanafin’s answer that she herself flew business class. The documents I received last week from the Department of Education did not specify whether or not this was the case, but her flight did cost €8,990.28. That’s a very expensive business class flight, in comparison to the First Class Enterprise Ireland flights. Perhaps her Department is using a different booking agent, or booked later leading to a higher cost?
I cannot explain the €60.12 discrepancy between Mr Martin’s flight cost and the other three. Nor can I explain why Enterprise Ireland bore the costs for the flights, but not anything else such as hotels, rather than Mr Martin’s then department. Apart from that, one has to wonder why Mr Martin’s two secretaries should have flown First Class, whatever about Mr Martin himself.
Three journalists also went on the trip, Conor Keane, business editor at the Irish Examiner, Tom McEnaney business editor of the Irish Independent and Una McCaffrey, assistant business editor at the Irish Times. Their combined flights and accommodation cost a total of €19,233.48. Other journalists did go on the trip, but their costs were not borne by Enterprise Ireland.
Enterprise Ireland sent 8 members of staff, including chief executive Frank Ryan. These were:
Paschal McGuire, Head of Press and Public Relations
Irene Sadlier, Event Manager
Doreen McKeown, Market Adviser
Frank O’Connor, Education Services Executive
Gerry Murphy, Executive Director, International Sales and Partnering
Paul Roben, Director EI Bio
Theresa Clarke, Event Manager
Excluding the First Class flight of Frank Ryan, the combined Business Class flights for members of staff was €34,318.20. Hotel costs (excluding any costs for journalists) totaled €19,692.36. Combined taxi fares cost €592.75, meals cost €188.30 and subsistence cost €4,734.82. Sundries costs €1,068.96.
This raises yet another question. The hotel costs for the journalists averaged €1,900. The average for EI staff was €2,813. Why the difference? And why, for example, did Gerry Murphy’s hotel costs come to just €85, while Doreen McKeown’s cost €3,561.89? It should also be said that the accommodation costs for John O’Donoghue’s wife came to approximately €1,900, small in comparison to some EI staff members. I am assuming there were other costs involved in their hotel stays.
In total, the taxpayer paid Enterprise Ireland €109,210.99, to send 14 people to India for five days. The taxpayer paid €26,421.14 to the Department of Education for Ms Hanafin and her traveling party.
That puts my running total for the India trade mission (2006) at €135,632.13.
However, when we add in the work of Ken Foxe at the Sunday Tribune (€48,582 at the Department of the Taoiseach and €65,161 at the Department of Foreign Affairs) we get a figure so far of €249,375 for the trip to India.
And I’ve not yet included John O’Donoghue’s expenses.
[Disclosure: In my day job, I work for the Irish Examiner. Mark freelances with The Irish Times online desk. TheStory.ie is entirely a voluntary project, done in our spare time]