Beijing to San Jose ... it's junket city for councillors while we foot €187k bill
SAN JOSE, Beijing and Budapest -- just some of the venues city councillors have jetted off to at the expense of the hard-hit taxpayer.
Figures seen by the Herald show that close to €187,000 has been forked out on conferences and other events in under a two-year period.
In a case of 'where else in the world would it happen', our public representatives have clocked up thousands of euro in expenses to jet off to international conferences held in the likes of America, Hungary, Spain and China.
Two trips taken last year to Beijing -- as part of the controversial twinning with Dublin City -- have cost us a hefty €6,229.
And the Herald can reveal that one councillor -- Labour's Mary Freehill has travelled on seven separate trips spanning three different continents.
Ms Freehill has flown over to the likes of San Jose, Zaragoza, Beijing and Debrecen in Hungary -- all at taxpayers' expense.
And many of the trips that took place at home also proved considerably costly to the public.
Two Labour councillors -- Rebecca Moynihan and Paddy Bourke -- clocked up €1,228 worth of expenses between them on a trip to Donegal in January for a conference entitled Volcanic Ash, Major Flooding, Freezing Spells -- Crises Impacts on Ireland.
While four councillors -- Fine Gael's Pat Crimmins and Mary O'Shea as well as Sinn Fein's Larry O'Toole and Criona Ni Dhalaigh -- enjoyed a costly day trip to Dundalk to a tune of €1,534.
The event in question was the Local Authority Members Association Spring Conference.
Fine Gael's Declan Flanagan filed expenses of €403 for a conference just a few short miles away in Greystones, Co Wicklow.
And Sinn Fein's Larry O'Toole also clocked up €472 expenses alone on a trip to Ravensdale, Co Louth for a time-keeping seminar.
Councillors are requested to compile a report on their respective trips so as to chart their progress.
Some €71,053 was spent on trips in the last six months of 2009, with this figure coming in at €71,640 for 2010 and €44,287 in the first nine months of 2011
Fine Gael members travelled on more
than half of the entire 42 trips that took place last year.
And despite only having five seats out of 52 in the chamber, Sinn Fein councillors went on almost a quarter of the overall trips.
Labour councillors participated in just 19 of the trips while no Fianna Fail councillor went on any taxpayer-funded conference last year.
The priciest conference over the past two years was in San Jose, USA where Dublin is twinned with the city.
Three councillors -- Labour's Paddy Bourke and Fine Gael's Pat Crimmins and Gerry Breen -- were among the contingent to Beijing in China in June. The trio clocked up expenses of €4,869 -- making the voyage the single most expensive trip.
Two female councillors -- Labour’s Mary Freehill and Sinn Fein's Criona Ni Dhalaigh -- have travelled on the most trips (seven) since 2010, clocking up expenses of €7,292 and €2,806 respectively.