MEPs' €1.5m trip is no jolly, says FF man
A FIANNA Fail politician has insisted a trip by up to 75 MEPs to South America is not a "jolly" -- after the planned visit came under fire.
It is estimated the three-day visit to Montevideo in Uruguay will cost European taxpayers around €1.42m.
But MEP Liam Aylward said Ireland's national interest would be served if he was part of the delegation.
"It would be very important that I would go, to be honest, if I had the time because there's a huge attack on the beef industry now at the moment from the Mercosur countries (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay)," he told the Herald.
"If ever I was to go on a trip it would be important to go on that one to raise it [the beef issue]," he added.
However, he has not even had time to consider yet whether he will go. The visit is being run by the EuroLat Assembly, which aims to strengthen links between European Parliamentarians and their Latin American counterparts. It has been condemned as a "jolly" and an "outrageous" waste of money by UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage.
The MEPs will each have a personal travel budget of €3,091 for business-class flights and five-star hotels for the trip in May, which will also include Brussels officials.
Mr Aylward said he has "no plans about it at all as of yet".
"The invitation came in there about a week ago but I've no idea whether I'll be going on it or not," he added.
"In fact, I've been on no trip on that particular delegation yet, so it's a question of whether I have time rather than anything else," the MEP said.
Fine Gael MEP Jim Higgins is also entitled to go but he could not be contacted for comment.
A spokesman for the European Parliament insisted it has not yet been decided who is going on the visit.
"There are around 75 full Members of the EP Delegation to the Euro-Latin American Parliamentary," he said.
"MEPs will be asked, probably in March, if they wish to take part in the visit to Montevideo. The composition of the delegation should then be settled by early April.
"All members of the delegation have the right to take part but I am told that, going on past experience, it is more likely to be around 40-50 who will actually wish to go."