Nearly $223,950 (€200,000) was spent sending 60 Irish councillors and local authority staff abroad for St Patrick’s Day trips this year, with 20 of the Republic’s 31 councils sending a delegation abroad.
New York was the most popular destination, reports The Sunday Times.
Records released under freedom of information laws show more than $55,988 (€50,000) was spent on flights, and $90,700 (€81,000) on hotels.
Meath county council sent the largest delegation abroad, with six people going to New York and four to London. The total cost was more than $22,395 (€20,000).
“Councillors work throughout the year representing the people of Meath, and St Patrick’s Day is an ideal opportunity for them to support Meath people living abroad and to recognize the work of the Meath associations,” said the local authority.
The delegation to New York stayed four nights in one of the city’s Fitzpatrick hotels, with bills costing from $1,451 (€1,296) to $1,864 (€1,665) per person.
Limerick’s council, which spent over $31,378 (€28,000) sending six people to the U.S., ran up the largest bill. The four councillors and two officials spent $13,437 (€12,000) on hotels. The delegation was led by Kieran O’Hanlon, a Fianna Fail councillor and mayor, who traveled to New York, Boston, and Washington during his eight-day trip.
An additional $4,143 (€3,700) was paid for a series of receptions and meetings in New York, including a $,1070 (€956) bill from New York’s Empire Steak House; $496 (€443) at Bloom’s Tavern; and two bills of $1,584 (€1,415) and $565 (€505) to Rosie O’Grady’s pub.
Cork county council incurred a bill of $24,635 (€22,000) for sending four people, including two senior officials to the U.S. The trip to Chicago, Detroit, and New York cost $7,260 (€6,484) for flights, and almost $9,407 (€8,400) on hotels, including an unscheduled weather-enforced overnight stay in Milwaukee.
The accommodation at the Crowne Plaza at Times Square cost $392 (€350) per night per room. The group also shelled out $3261 (€2,912) for sterling-silver gifts to be presented in America, including torcs, cufflinks and bookmarks, while $4,043 (€3,611) was spent on official receptions and dinners.
The council said: “The itinerary was very intensive with a series of rolling engagements from arrival in the US to departure. Its focus was on developing relationships across a wide range of common interest areas, including economic development, tourism, trade and cultural endeavors.
“The council is satisfied the costs involved reflect value for money, are of direct benefit to Cork, and that economic prudence and a value for money ethos was applied.”
Bills of more than $11,198 (€10,000) were also run up by councils in Sligo, Donegal, and Louth. Kerry sent a delegation at a cost of $11,037 (€9,857), Mayo sent one for $10,195 (€9,105), and Carlow sent a group with a final bill of $10,188 (€9,099).
The Sunday Times notes that not all local authorities sent delegations abroad for St Patrick’s Day, with no one traveling from any of the four Dublin councils.