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DDDA splurged thousands on staff parties in recession

The Dublin Docklands Development Authority (DDDA) spent thousands of euro wining and dining guests in the city’s top restaurants as the country plunged into recession.

Startling figures revealed by the Herald today show how the troubled semi-state incurred hefty expenses even as Ireland was officially in recession.

According to credit card statements seen by the Herald, guests were wined and dined at the exclusive Restaurant Patrick Guibaud, Odessa, and Town Bar and Grill restaurants.

A visit to Dame Street's Odessa restaurant in October 2008, cost €3,526 of taxpayers money.

The bill was paid for using a credit card in the name of the DDDA's finance director, David Higgins.

Mr Higgins' card, which had a limit of €20,000, was also used to pick up a €2,847 tab for Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud on April 25, 2007.

With two Michelin stars and main courses alone costing up to €80, it is considered by many to be the country's best restaurant.

A staff Christmas party at Town Bar & Grill on Kildare Street cost €3,102.28 on December 15, 2005. Some €571.50 was then spent in the celebrity haunt Lillies Bordello on the same date.

The bills were paid for using a credit card held by the then CEO of the authority, Paul Maloney. The same card, with a limit of €40,000, had been used to pay for a €2,915.05 tab at Locks Restaurant in Portobello a week earlier.

The credit card statements, which detail the lavish spending of the public's money, were made available following a Freedom of Information request.

A spokeswoman for the DDDA said the new chairman and the new acting chief executive of the authority have made it very clear they are "now very aggressively reducing spending across the board in light of the financial position it faces".

She said the expenses referred to were incurred "some years ago under previous management and when the circumstances were very different.

"The card referenced as David Higgins card is a company credit card administered by David as Director of Finance but used by the authority to fund relevant purchases requiring a credit card," the spokeswoman added.

She said the DDDA paid for 40 guests at the staff Christmas party at Town Bar & Grill, while 50 people attended Odessa at the authority's expense for a "staff away day".

Members

Fifteen members of the DDDA board attended Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud to mark the completion of its term of office, the spokeswoman added.

The statements also show that a group of DDDA members, including disgraced banker Sean FitzPatrick, who went on a trip to St Petersburg in September, 2004, spent €2,578.48 at the city's Noble Nest restaurant.

According to its website, the Noble Nest "is one of the places in St Petersburg where you can find preserved the traditions of Russian aristocracy and restored the atmosphere of splendour, romantics and refined taste".

The cost of the visit, which included a trip to Helsinki, came to €53,262.

The delegation of 14 executive and board members stayed in the Ravintola Savoy in Helsinki and spent €2,101.90 in the Klippan Palace restaurant on one occasion. Commenting previously, the DDDA said it is the largest urban and social regeneration project ever undertaken in Ireland.

The foreign trips "were undertaken to help the authority study similar large-scale projects in action abroad so that lessons learned could be applied to the Dublin project".

It added: "As the financial position of the authority has weakened in recent years, such projects have had to be curtailed in line with cuts across all budgets."