Sunday 20 January 2019

Mary Lou's Oz flights cost €4k, Bruton's €1,401

SINN Fein deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald's business-class flights to Australia cost more than double what Jobs Minister Richard Bruton spent when he travelled there.

Ms McDonald's premium seats cost €4,000 while Mr Bruton spent €1,401 flying economy class on a trade mission to Australia in the same week.

Mr Bruton's five-day visit to three Australian cities led to 26 new jobs in Ireland and more than €10m in foreign direct investment. He held more than 40 meetings with business leaders and senior politicians.

Ms McDonald spent 10 days in Australia and spoke to supporters in five cities along with Mid-Ulster MP Francie Molloy at events that included Irish dancing and live music.

Last night, a government source took issue with the difference in costs between the minister and Ms McDonald's flights.

"It's a shame that Mary Lou and Sinn Fein, who spend so much time posturing on spending issues when it comes to the Government, take a different approach when it comes to their own behaviour," the source said.

While the taxpayer paid for Mr Bruton's travel, Sinn Fein argued that it paid for Ms McDonald's trip from party coffers.

Arriving back from Australia yesterday and speaking before her party's think-in in Co Louth, Ms McDonald said she was pleased that those who organised the trip had afforded her that "level of comfort".

"I've never been in Australia before, but anyone who has will appreciate the sheer distances involved, and yes, we travelled over by business class and yes, we returned in business class," she said.

Ms McDonald regularly criticises health chiefs and charity bosses for lavish spending on travel and entertaining in her role as a member of the Public Accounts Committee.

A Sinn Fein spokesman said last night: "Also, the costs of Deputy McDonald's flights were not incurred by the taxpayer."


Meanwhile, at the Fine Gael think-in at Fota Island Resort in Cork, the row between Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Health Minister Leo rumbled on.

Mr Varadkar conceded he was wrong to publicly say Budget tax cuts could be as little as €5 to €10 a week.

But he insisted he would continue to defend the need for health service spending.

He also said he did not mind being criticised in public by the Taoiseach, who told him on Tuesday to stop speculating about the October 14 Budget.

"I'm a big boy and I'm willing to take a degree of criticism," he said.


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