herald

Thursday 8 December 2016

Thrifty Taoiseach handed out €10 phone stands and €1.39 suit pins on US state visit

POLITICS

U.S. President Barack Obama (right) and Ireland's Prime Minister Enda Kenny speak to reporters after their meeting in the Oval Office as part of a St. Patrick's Day visit at the White House in Washington on March 17, 2015. Reuters/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. President Barack Obama (right) and Ireland's Prime Minister Enda Kenny speak to reporters after their meeting in the Oval Office as part of a St. Patrick's Day visit at the White House in Washington on March 17, 2015. Reuters/Jonathan Ernst
Obama

It's the eternal conundrum - what to give the man who has everything?

When Taoiseach Enda Kenny met US President Barack Obama this year he presented him with a hand-crafted book of Yeats poems which cost €185.

The Shamrock bowl also presented to Mr Obama as part of the Taoiseach's visit to Washington to mark St Patrick's Day cost €250, according to new figures released to the Herald under the Freedom of Information Act.

Mr Kenny had a hand-crafted book of poems for Vice President Joe Biden costing €150, and the Obama daughters, Sasha and Malia, each got books costing €50.

First Lady Michelle Obama was given a special bronze Lough Gur replica sixth century brooch costing €64, while the Second Lady, Jill Biden, also received a brooch that cost slightly more at €72.

The expenditure on gifts presented by the Department of the Taoiseach so far this year revealed, however, that it was the thought that counted when buying for the overseas trip, as many presents were relatively inexpensive.

For instance, a crystal mobile phone stand given to Tom Donoghue, the President of the US Chamber of Commerce cost just €10.

Some twenty crystal key chains with a logo costing €6.79 were given to various individuals on the March trip.

Crystal

Other officials were the recipients of lapel pins costing just €1.39.

But it is not known what the Taoiseach received in return.

"The Department does not keep a record of gifts received which are below the €650 threshold set down in the ethics legislation," the documentation stated. "Gifts above this threshold are deemed to be gifts to the State."

Meanwhile, the Department of the Taoiseach revealed that the French Prime Minister Manuel Valls was presented with a large engraved crystal bowl worth €67.65 when he visited here in April.

In May, an official visit by the Chinese Premier Li Keqiang saw him being presented with a bronze sculpture of the Children of Lir, and a tales of Old Ireland book, costing €215.75.

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