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€70m -- cost to Irish taxpayer of hosting the EU presidency - twice what the danes paid

THE cash-rich Danes argued over spending €35m on the EU presidency -- but Ireland is splashing almost twice that amount.

Our €70m spend was branded a "disgrace" by a Danish politician, whose own country agonised over its comparatively modest spend.

As the Government rolls out the red carpet for visiting dignatories, Danish MEP Morten Messerschmidt sympathised with taxpayers here.

He questioned what type of signal bailed-out Ireland is giving in a time of economic crisis.

When Denmark hosted the presidency last year, it kept costs down by limiting the number of gifts, serving tap instead of bottled water and relying on public transport.

But the final bill of €35m still caused ructions within the country, Mr Messerschmidt told the Herald.

"We had a debate in Denmark how that amount was too high compared to other presidencies and compared to the level of achievements we had (during the presidency)," the Danish People's Party member said.

"I have been critiquing the (Danish) government for spending that much, so to hear that the Irish Government is spending more is a bit surprising, I must say," he added.

A host of other top eurocrats will be among the guests during Ireland's term.

"Maybe the Government is preparing to celebrate these highly esteemed unelected people for supporting the Irish economy, so they are paying with hors d'oeuvres and champagne," he quipped. He believes the six-month presidency should be "about political results and not spending taxpayers' money on receptions and events".







Disgrace

However, it is understood there is a difference between what Ireland and Denmark included in their calculations when totting up the bill, with Ireland taking an all-inclusive approach.

Nevertheless, Mr Messerschmidt added: "I think it's a disgrace to the average taxpayer in Ireland."

Among the most eye-catching costs for Irish taxpayers is the €66,000 being spent on neckties and the €143,000 on wool scarves.

Mugs and golf umbrellas will also be given as gifts, while a further €250,000 will go towards running a dedicated website.

Some €775,000 will be spent on stationery packages for visiting Eurocrats and journalists.

But the Department of Foreign Affairs has defended the costs, saying the presentation of neckties and scarves is a well-established tradition of each presidency and a cost-effective way of promoting Ireland.

It said the provision of 50,000 stationery packs is justifiable in that it helps identify Ireland's role as president country.

A fleet of Audi A6 vehicles was donated by the car manufacturers to the presidency organisers at no cost, the department said.

comurphy@herald.ie