Half of €20,000 bill for council trips was spent in US
ALMOST half of the €20,000 spent on trips at home and abroad for Dublin city councillors this year went on US visits.
Some €9,953 was splashed out on travel and accommodation costs for three councillors who journeyed to San Jose and a fourth who went to Washington, figures released by Dublin City Council show.
Three councillors were part of a trade mission that attended events linked to the twinning of Dublin and California's third largest city.
The eight-day visit between March 21 and 29 this year by then Lord Mayor Naoise O Muiri to Mexico and San Jose cost €2,484.26.
Labour's Lucy McRoberts and Ruairi McGinley of Fine Gael also journeyed to San Jose, with their bill coming to €2,570 each.
Fine Gael's Clare Byrne travelled to Washington between March 15 and 21, when she was deputy lord mayor, at a cost of €2,329 as part of the Frederick Douglass/Daniel O'Connell Project.
The project describes itself as a legacy to the leadership of Douglass – who escaped slavery in 19th Century America – and Catholic emancipator Daniel O'Connell.
In 1845, Douglass undertook a four-month lecture tour of Ireland, becoming friends with O'Connell along the way.
Apart from a visit costing €419 by Cllr O Muiri to London for a health and safety network meeting in February, all other trips by councillors in the first six months were to conferences within Ireland.
These included journeys to Rosscarbery in Co Cork, Bundoran in Co Donegal, Westport in Co Mayo and Ennistymon in Co Clare.
Despite the high cost, the city council has staunchly defended the annual trip to San Jose.
Among the activities this year were a breakfast meeting with Debra Figone, San Jose city manager, and a Spirit of Ireland College reception hosted by Mohammad Qayoumi, president of San Jose State University.
The councillors also attended the San Jose Rotary Club for a business lunch with keynote speakers along with 300 business people from the city.
The lunch was broadcasted by TV channel Create TV and there was also live coverage on local radio station KLIZ.
The council spent €20,161 on foreign and domestic travel costs for its 52 councillors in the first half of 2013.
Dublin Chamber of Commerce described the San Jose trip as "a unique opportunity to network with local businesses".