herald

Wednesday 13 December 2017

The highs (FIRST CLASS) and lows of calamity cullen

HE'LL be forever remembered for E-Voting and muddling around First Class in his pyjamas at taxpayers' expense.

A so-called Minister for Fun, his term in office represents a series of blunders.

As speculation mounted that he was about to be axed by Taoiseach Brian Cowen in the upcoming cabinet reshuffle, Martin Cullen has opted to walk.

Unlike Ministers O'Dea and Sargent, Martin Cullen didn't resign as a result of political scandal.

Nonetheless, his legacy will will be that of a wasteful minister, one who cost us all €52m -- and counting -- in the most scandalous overspend in history.

As the 'Minister for Fun' in the Department of Arts, Sports and Tourism, he lived up to his name, enjoying the trappings of a job that involved regular jaunts to sporting and cultural events around the world at taxpayers' expense.

One of his biggest overseas missions was the Beijing Olympics, where he was spotted strolling in first class while Ireland's athletes were holed up in economy.

The final bill for that trip is estimated to be in the region of €30,000, but Cullen insisted afterwards that the athletes didn't mind.

Despite being Sports Minister, he argued that the travel arrangements for the competitors had nothing to do with him, whereas his department handled his personal travel plans.

Just last year, as the country was tightening its belt to unprecedented levels, Freedom of Information files showed that taxpayers forked out €5,000 so that he could have 20 extra inches of leg room on flight to Houston, Texas.

As previously revealed in the Herald, that St Patrick's Day trip to the States came at a cost of €10,500.

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