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Government's bill for VIP services at airport hits €280k

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Ex-taoiseach Bertie Ahern

Ex-taoiseach Bertie Ahern

Ex-taoiseach Bertie Ahern

More than €280,000 has been spent by two government departments on VIP services at Irish airports over the past three years.

This included executive facilities for EU Commissioner Phil Hogan, former taoiseach Bertie Ahern and more than €30,000 on the visit of Pope Francis.

The vast bulk of the money was spent by the Department of Foreign Affairs, which provides VIP services for visiting heads of state, ministers, royals, dignitaries and senior diplomats.

The Department of the Taoiseach has paid for luxury services at Dublin Airport for Enda Kenny, Leo Varadkar, Mr Hogan and Mr Ahern, according to records obtained under Freedom of Information.

VIP facilities for Mr Hogan cost €1,003 for five flights between 2017 and 2019.

Asked why these services were used by the EU Commissioner, a spokesman said usch travel arrangements were a matter for the Department of the Taoiseach.

Records previously released by the department said that was part of a "standing arrangement" with the Dublin Airport Authority.

Mr Ahern made use of the VIP facilities for four flights in July and September last year.

Each time he used the "platinum service" at Dublin Airport, the Department of the Taoiseach paid a bill of €225 a flight.

Mr Ahern is only allowed to use VIP facilities because of a decision made by Mr Varadkar in October 2017 to reintroduce such perks for former taoisigh.

They had been scrapped by Mr Kenny but Mr Ahern has been the only ex-taoiseach to use the new arrangement.

The Department of the Taoiseach also paid out another €2,500 for VIP airport facilities for Mr Kenny, while he was still serving, and for current Taoiseach Mr Varadkar.

More than €220,000 has been spent by the Department of Foreign Affairs on platinum services and ramp transfers at Dublin Airport over the past two years.

Papal

The bill for 2018 hit €120,000, fuelled mainly by the high costs involved with the two-day visit of Pope Francis to Ireland.

Two separate bills were paid by the Department of Foreign Affairs for the papal visit, the first for €18,600 and the second for €11,600.

That covered the costs of VIP facilities for Pope Francis and his more than 100-strong delegation, according to the records.