herald

Tuesday 21 November 2017

'Lovely Leo' forks out €6,400 on PR shots of himself

THEY say that nobody loves Leo Varadkar more than Leo loves himself.

But when the public has to fork out thousands of euro for photography for the Fine Gael poster boy, you begin to wonder when the love affair will end.

The Herald can reveal today that the Transport Minister's department has forked out an extraordinary €6,400 in just nine months on photography.

Figures obtained through the Freedom of Information Act lay bare the lavish spending by Mr Varadkar and his two junior ministers on taking snaps.

And more than €27,000 has been splashed out on photography by the Department since 2008 -- a bill footed entirely by the taxpayer.

But just days after he warned that a "bomb would explode" in our capital if we failed to repay a €1.2bn debt to Anglo bondholders, the Herald can detail Mr Varadkar's enthusiasm when it comes to 'saying cheese'.

The Dublin West TD racked up a bill of €393 on June 11 posing for what was described as a "profile of minister Varadkar", according to the documents released under the Freedom of Information Act.

And just one photographer was hired to shoot the 'profile', despite the tidy sum. A further €530 was spent on taking photographs on the day the Government announced it was to shelve a number of key transport projects, such as Metro North.



Shameful

And a further €531 was forked out on photographing during an event entitled 'Welcoming the Irish Cricket Team' at Farmleigh in Dublin.

Fianna Fail Transport spokesperson Timmy Dooley said he has requested the photography costs incurred by the Department before, but it was not provided to him.

He further labelled the spending as "a shameful abuse of public funds". He said: "I think it is amazing that in the current climate, when there is no major transport projects being built or launched, that the minister would indulge in this type of lavish activity.

"It's a shameful abuse of public funds and given that we are hearing about it the day after Mr Varadkar speaks about a "bomb" going off in Dublin over Anglo bondholders is doubly insulting.

"They promised us a much different approach but this spending is just ludicrous. He must immediately review his promotional activities as the public deserve much better.

"Surely in this day and age, any major photography needs are covered by the mainstream media itself."



Lower

However the money is substantially lower to that spent under the watch of Mr Dooley's party colleague and former Transport Minister Noel Dempsey.

In 2008 alone, over €10,300 was spent, with a further €7,700 being splashed out a year later.

Almost €1,800 was forked out on a single event in January 2008 -- the announcement of the National Roads Programme.

A spokesperson for the Department said: "Professional photographers are sometimes required in connection with the work of the Department and its ministers, in order to provide an official record of an event. This is standard practice across Government.

"Photographers are only used where it is deemed necessary. These photographs are also made available to the media, free of charge. We endeavour to keep photography costs to a minimum. The annual bill for photography has therefore fallen significantly from €10,343 in 2008 to €6,702 in 2011."

hnews@herald.ie

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