State pays astonishing €6,700 per week for rental of home for the Irish Ambassador in New Delhi

THE Irish government is spending an astronomical €29,000-a-month to rent an ambassador’s residence in New Delhi, in a country where hundreds of millions of people live below the poverty line.

The extraordinary rental agreement was signed for a property in the “diplomatic enclave” of New Delhi, the capital of India in January 2013 even as Ireland remained mired in recession.

The revelation is likely to spark further calls for a review of the scale of Ireland’s diplomatic spending after revelations that a luxury apartment for the Irish ambassador in Tokyo was being rented for €46,000-a-month.

In defence of that expenditure, the Department of Foreign Affairs had pointed to the fact that Japan was one of the most expensive countries in the world.

When questions were raised regarding the extraordinary level of expenditure that was taking place in India, they again said rental costs were “very high” in New Delhi.

The monthly cost of the property in local currency is 2.15 million rupees. To give a sense of just how much that is, 75% of Indian people earned less than 5,000 rupees a month in the last major socio-economic census from 2011.

In a statement that took ten days to prepare the Department of Foreign Affairs confirmed the monthly rent paid came to €29,409.

Details of payments made in 2015, and which were obtained under FOI, reveal that the annual total last year came to €352,000.

The Department said that as well as the Ambassador, there were embassy employees living on the property. “[It] consists of a house for the Head of Mission and his family and separate living quarters for Embassy staff and dependents,” they said.

The Department said rental costs were sky-high in New Delhi due to the “extremely high demand for property in one of the world’s fastest growing economies, with growth exceeding 7.5% last year”.

They said there was intense competition for suitable properties from both embassies and private sector organisations, national and international.


The property is located in New Delhi’s diplomatic enclave, an area that is home to dozens of embassies and official residences.

With tree-lined boulevards and none of the bustling traffic so familiar in India, the neighbourhood – which was established in 1950 – is the most affluent in the city.

When it was first built, property was allotted to embassies, chanceries, high commissions and ambassadorial residences with countries including the US, the UK, and Russia all represented there.

As part of its development, an 80-acre park was developed for diplomatic staff while the area is also home to several schools and colleges, including the famous British School and the American Embassy School.

Houses on Sardar Patel Marg, where the Irish residence is located, are generally built on large land plots of between 800 and 1,600 square metres. The area is also home to a string of five-star hotels.

The current lease was signed in January 2013 after the Embassy viewed a number of properties around New Delhi.

They said it was due to expire at the end of the year and that diplomatic staff were “actively engaged” with the landlord to seek savings before the rental agreement was renewed.

“In line with departmental guidelines, the Head of Mission is exploring other suitable options available on the market,” they said.

The Department said that India was a “priority market” for Ireland and that the current property matched all of their criteria.

Among the criteria used for its selection were a central location in a safe and secure area, appropriate floor space for events promoting Ireland, living quarters for the Head of Mission and their family, rent in line with local market rates, and its availability for use by the Embassy and stage agencies for official events.

They said: “So far this year, the Head of Mission has hosted a large range of events promoting Ireland’s strategic interests. In so doing the Embassy has worked with [among others] Enterprise Ireland (and their client companies), the IDA, Education Ireland, Tourism Ireland and UCD.”

Over €4 million was spent last year on homes for Ireland’s ambassadors and consul generals in countries where a property is not owned by the state.

The property in New Delhi, and the €46,000-a-month apartment in Tokyo, are by some distance the two most expensive. Next most costly are the €20,870 paid for a residence in New York and €20,000 for a luxury home with swimming pool in Singapore.

A house in Geneva is rented at a cost of €15,925 per month while another €10,000 is paid out for properties in Helsinki and in Warsaw. The rental bill in at least half five other cities – two properties each in Brussels and Vienna, and one in Bucharest, Vienna, Rome, Paris – is between €5,000 and €9,000.

An edited version of this story appeared originally in the Irish Mail on Sunday.

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Over €20,000 in travel and accommodation expenses for Senators based in the Dublin commuter belt

Over the past few months, I’ve written a number of posts about a grey area in the rules for expense claims by TDs.

To briefly explain it, TDs based between 25kms and 60kms from Leinster House are paid a very generous travel and accommodation allowance of €25,295-per-year.

In one case, a TD lives just 25.5 kilometres from the Dáil and if he lived even one kilometre closer to Leinster House – his annual entitlement would have dropped to €9,000-a-year.

You can read some old posts on this here, here and here.

This post is to explain that this system also applies to Senators.

And so, three different Senators – all of whom live a relatively normal commute from Leinster House are in receipt of large travel and accommodation allowances.

For Senators, the annual total is a little smaller, €20,795-a-year. The lower amount is to reflect the fact that they have no constituencies and therefore they are not paid for constituency travel.

The three Senators in what is known as Band 1 are Fine Gael’s James Reilly, Fine Gael’s Ray Butler, and Labour’s Ged Nash. Mr Reilly lives in Rush, North Dublin, Mr Butler in Trim, Co Meath, and Mr Nash in Drogheda, Co Louth.

I sent several emails to each of them asking them if they intended to keep taking the full amount. None have yet responded.

You can see the full details of all expenses paid to Senators for June here (unfortunately the July publication is a mess).

It is of course open to all TDs and Senators in Band 1 to make a refund at the end of the year of unspent money. Equally, it is open to them to take a reduced amount, as at least one has done.

It would also be open to any politician in either the Dáil or Seanad to call for reform of this ridiculous over-generous opaque unvouched system … but that is yet to happen.

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€15.8M in rent, €250,000 for moving furniture and €222,000 for business class flights – a year of spending at the Department of Foreign Affairs

A MONTHLY rent bill of €5,400 for a residence for Ireland’s Ambassador to the Vatican, over €250,000 for moving furniture, and in excess of €222,000 on business class flights … just some of the money spent by the country’s Department of Foreign Affairs last year.

A data dump of €64 million in Departmental spending obtained under FOI has given a detailed look at how and where our diplomats spent taxpayer’s money in 2015.

The figures include enormous figures for rent with €5,400-a-month being spent on a residence for the Ambassador to the Holy See.

In articles in the Irish Catholic newspaper last year, it was described as being located on the Piazza Rondanini and “situated just across the Tiber river from the Vatican in the shadows of the iconic Pantheon”.

Vast rental costs have also been incurred at the embassies in Geneva, Tokyo, Singapore, New York and in Brussels, according to the records.

The monthly rental bill in Tokyo comes to just over €40,000-per-month according to the database with another €27,000-a-month spent at the Consulate General in New York.

In Singapore, the monthly rent bill is just over €20,000 while in Geneva, it averaged €16,260 in each month of 2015.

By far the biggest cost was rent, which between costs for chancery buildings and residences came to more than €15.8 million during the course of last year.

The Department of Foreign Affairs said they seek to “minimise the cost of rental properties to ensure value for money”.

They did say however that the recovering world economy is putting increasing pressure on rent and that the weakness of the euro against the US dollar was impacting in many non-EU countries.

Over €2 million was also spent on airfares, with around €220,000 – or roughly 12% – of that total going on business class flights.

Many of the most expensive flights, including tickets costing €5,908 and €4,784, were charged to the office of the Minister or Ministers of State at the Department.

The Department said business travel was only used in very limited circumstances, only for flights of more than seven hours in duration.

Close to €180,000 was spent on hotels, with the single biggest bill of €5,752 charged to the Protocol Division by the five-star Glenlo Abbey Hotel in Galway.

One of the biggest areas of expenditure was on what was described as “major maintenance” primarily to houses and embassies rented by the Department.

One contract from last September came in at just over €210,000 though no details have been provided on where or what the money was spent on.

Cars cost more than €750,000 with €69,000 spent on vehicles in Ethiopia, €64,000 in Mozambique and €37,000 in Uganda – all countries where Irish Aid are active.

Details on the nature of the vehicles bought are scant apart from one entry listed as €31,115 paid to BMW and coming out of the human resources budget.

The Department said they had replaced 22 vehicles across the world, including five to support the Irish Aid programme. They said vehicles were only replaced when it was “absolutely necessary”.

With so many civil servants working all over the world – the costs of moving both furniture and other items was also significant.

More than €1.76 million was spent on storing and moving equipment, with another €259,000 spent moving furniture.

The Department explained that in 2015 more than 250 staff had moved country and that costs were incurred transporting their “personal and household effects”.

New furniture also proved costly with just under €300,000 spent on “furniture and fittings” in 2015, the largest sum of €58,000 paid to an Irish carpentry company that specialises in kitting out offices.

A large bill of just over €475,000 was also run up on official state entertainment, which included significant costs for chauffeurs with one company paid in excess of €50,000 for driving services.

The Dublin Airport Authority was paid just over €16,400 for VIP lounges and other services. A florist company Floral Events got just over €2,000 while a piano company were paid €695.

Across the network of embassies and consulates, the bill for cable and satellite TV came to just over €72,000 with the largest bills run up at Ireland’s UN office and consulates in New York.

Cleaning bills for the diplomatic buildings exceeded €1 million with the cost of keeping Ireland’s EU Permanent Representation spick and span coming to €63,000 alone.

Rail and bus fares cost just over €9,000 while €85,000 was spent on taxis, the vast majority of it in Dublin and the Department’s other Irish offices.

The Department also had to pay out a total of €186,654 in what were cryptically referred to as “settlement costs” in the database.

In a statement, they explained that these were the final payments made to former local staff at the Irish Embassy in Lesotho following its closure in 2014.

More than €550,000 was spent on diplomatic mail across the globe, while €2.2 million was spent on regular postage, much of it by the Passport Office sending out passports.

A further €132,000 was spent on “items of artistic value”, €142,000 on translation fees, €579,000 on mobile phone costs, and €280,000 on language courses.

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Ireland’s €4 million annual rent bill for ambassadorial residences including €46,000-a-month for a property in Tokyo

THE Department of Foreign Affairs is paying a staggering €46,000-a-month for a residence for the Irish Ambassador to Japan.

The colossal rental fee, which comes to more than €550,000 each year, is paid for a property in the upmarket Tokyo suburb of Moto-Azabu.

It is located in the embassy belt in Minato City where rental costs are at a premium and is by far the most expensive ambassadorial residence leased by the Irish government.

Although property prices in Tokyo are high, the rental figure for the property is still astronomical.

On one of the city’s best known luxury rental websites Century 21, the single most expensive property listed costs €33,000 per month … 30% less than the Irish Ambassador’s residence.

The revelation was made in an article I did yesterday for the Irish Mail on Sunday yesterday for which I took a certain amount of criticism on Twitter.

One described it as “sensationalist nonsense”, another asked if I wanted ambassadors to live in a shed at a roundabout, because apparently to question such extraordinary payments displays no understanding of what is required from our diplomatic network.

One pointed to criticism of St Patrick’s Day as being in a similar tabloid vein.

When I explained how St Patrick’s Day trips in 2007 had cost €500,000 and by 2010 were down to €200,000 – because of media scrutiny – and with no discernible impact on our diplomatic relations … there was no response.

Following the story, the Department of Foreign Affairs has now confirmed it is actively seeking to buy a residence in Tokyo because the rental payments are so extraordinarily high.

In all, more than €4 million was spent last year on a network of homes for ambassadors and consul generals around the world in cities where the state does not actually own a building.

Details of the individual rents of each of the properties were released following an FOI request.

However, the Department of Foreign Affairs refused to release the rental agreements for the properties saying that they were commercially sensitive.

That means it’s not possible to discover how long the leases are for, who the landlord is, and whether penalties would apply if the state tried to extricate itself from the costliest ones.

The ambassadorial residence in Tokyo was more than twice as expensive as any of the other properties, according to the records.

The next highest rent was paid for a home for the Consul General in New York.

That property is located on UN Plaza directly beside the headquarters of the United Nations in midtown Manhattan.

A residence for the Ambassador to Singapore is costing the Irish taxpayer €20,050 every month. It is situated on Peirce Hill, one of the most expensive neighbourhoods in the city.

Renting a house in the Swiss city of Geneva is costing €15,925 in rent each month. The house is on upmarket Rue de Moillebeau and overlooks the city’s famous Parc de Trembley.

Just over €10,000 a month is also paid in rent for the official residence in Helsinki while another €10,000 gets paid out each month for a home for the Ambassador in the Polish capital Warsaw.

In at least half a dozen other cities – including two in Brussels, Bucharest, Rome, Vienna, Paris, and Vienna – the state is paying between €5,000 and €9,000 per month.

The Department of Foreign Affairs said that to “fulfil [their] objectives” they needed to be based in the main capitals and economic hubs.

They said: “Because of the economic and strategic nature of these cities the cost of operating in them is high, in particular rental rates.

“The Department always seeks to ensure value for money in all its operations and in particular rental agreements.

“The Department has commenced an exercise to look at how it can convert rental payments into long term assets in these locations which are strategic partners for Ireland.”

They said the heads of each embassy or consulate were required to negotiate savings with landlords and agents before signing any rental agreements.

In the Estonian capital Tallinn, the embassy and ambassadorial residence moved into the same building and that cut costs from €17,235 a month to €11,295.

Similarly, in New York, the Consul General moved to a new residence which brought rent there down from €29,022 a month in 2015 to €21,319 this year.

Over the past four years, the Department has paid out €16.7 million in rent for diplomatic residences with the bill highest in 2013.

The Department said they had a long list of requirements for suitable homes for their ambassadors around the globe.

The houses are subject to inspection and vetting “with regard to … suitability, adequacy, value for money from a representational perspective and its capacity to host promotional and official events”.

They also said they needed to be situated in secure areas and in general close to the city centre.

“The complex international security environment in which we operate also requires that we ensure the protection of our staff, their families and visitors to the residences and is fundamental to the duty of care of this Department,” they said.

A version of this article with additional details on the Tokyo property originally appeared in the Irish Mail on Sunday. The full FOI release is below

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Clare Daly & Leo Varadkar opposed housing developments because of impact it would have on neighbouring property values

TWO TDs opposed the development of housing in their constituencies on the basis that it would have an adverse effect on the property values of neighbours.

It probably would not be that surprising to hear one was made by Leo Varadkar … much more surprising the fact that the other was Clare Daly.

The story in full is down below with each of the objection letters.

There’s an interesting point to be made about FOI on how this story was researched where I submitted the exact same request to each of the four Dublin local authorities for all objections to housing received from Oireachtas members.

Fingal County Council did a search of their planning database using “” email addresses as a starting point and were happy to release the letters.

The other three – Dublin City, Dun Laoghaire/Rathdown, South Dublin – all refused on the basis that the documents are already in the public domain.

And technically they are, buried as they are among thousands of planning documents, objections, drawings etc in public files.

The new FOI Act does ask public bodies to do their best to assist requesters and while Fingal have certainly met that standard, the others did not even try to help or offer guidance.

I asked two of them (Dublin City/DLR) to reconsider their decisions and passed on the methodology Fingal had used for pulling the letters together in a simple way, but they would not.

I will revisit this myself at a later date and try to run the searches.

And here’s the story in full:

Six TDs opposed the development of hundreds of new houses and apartments in letters to a local authority.

The letters, seventeen in total, looked for developments across North Dublin – including housing estates and apartment complexes – to be blocked in the midst of a deep housing crisis.

Nine of the letters were submitted to Fingal County Council by the TD Clare Daly, who opposed plans for more than 300 homes at a variety of sites across the county.

Among the developments she objected to were 173 new homes for Swords in North Dublin, 47 houses in Malahide, and 41 homes in Lusk.

In at least one of the plans, the developers had promised the development of affordable homes saying they had already delivered 97 units in the area in previous phases.

Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar also opposed a housing development in Castleknock, which is in the heart of his Dublin West constituency.

In a letter, he said the apartment block would impact on the “residential amenity” and “property values” of neighbouring homes.


The records, which were released following an FOI request, show that Clare Daly was by far the most frequent objector.

In four of the nine cases, Ms Daly opposed the plans because the developer involved had previously been involved in estates that were left unfinished or where pyrite had been used.

She opposed five other developments on a variety of other grounds including traffic congestion, their effect on property values, and right of way issues.

Ms Daly objected to fourteen new houses on a site in Malahide on four separate grounds in April 2014.

She said the site was elevated and the new houses would overlook neighbouring properties, also saying there were unresolved boundary issues, congestion on the access road, and low water pressure in the area.

Forty-seven new homes on the same road in Malahide were also opposed by Clare Daly.

She said the provision of a new walkway would be unfair on residents of a neighbouring cul-de-sac, that a right of way would be extinguished, and mature trees would be chopped down. And she again cited heavy traffic in the area and problems with the water pressure.

Ms Daly also asked for permission to be refused for the development of 173 dwellings at Ridgewood in Swords, the Dublin suburb in which she lives.

In October 2014, she said she had raised concerns about the development with the Minister of the Environment and that the objection was mainly based on the traffic impact in an area already suffering regular rush hour gridlock.

The TD said there were serious safety issues at the roundabout at the entrance in the site, which would be made “worse by the addition of almost 200 more homes”.

A development in Malahide was also opposed by her in March 2015 where planning permission was being sought to change from building houses to an apartment block.

In another letter opposing development of new houses – Ms Daly said the estate involved was unfinished and remediation work for pyrite had not taken place.

She also objected to the developer building on three other sites around North Dublin on the same basis.

Six more houses in Swords were also opposed by the Dublin North TD in March 2015 when she said the development was “entirely out of keeping” with existing homes and would require a new access road.

“There is no doubt that this would result in a serious devaluation of property for homeowners in Boroimhe Aspen [adjoining road] who purchased their homes in an established cul-de-sac,” she said.


Two developments were also opposed by Independent TD Tommy Broughan, who has also been a vocal critic of the government on housing.

In December 2014, he opposed four detached houses in Howth, and in July 2015 the development of 71 apartments and 10 semi-detached houses in Sutton.

Mr Broughan said there was already permission for thousands of homes and apartments in Dublin “that could be built tomorrow”.

He said he opposed developments where he felt they were “unsustainable or an inappropriate density for the area”.

Former Labour minister of state Aodhan O’Riordain opposed the development of 200 houses at a site in Howth, which he said this week was on the basis that the site was being over-developed.

He said: “We can’t go back to days where developers put in planning permission and nobody raises an eyebrow. These letters simply mean you want the development to be done right. Any planning has to take account of where it is, who is around it, and that things are done well.”

Fianna Fáil’s Darragh O’Brien objected to three schemes. Two of the cases were because the developer involved had left unfinished elements at a previous estate and the houses there had problems with pyrite.

He opposed a third scheme for 54 houses at Balrothery in North County Dublin because there was no open space available for the residents who would live there.

Leo Varadkar’s objection – sent in June of this year – was to the development of a former pub in Dublin 15, where plans were submitted for 41 apartments.

In a letter to Fingal County Council, he said: “I am certain it will impact on the residential amenity and property values of neighbouring homes.”

In a statement issued through his Department, he said: “The site is currently a pub and car park. I think it is an appropriate site for much-needed housing that’s similar in height and scale to the neighbouring houses, not a big apartment block.

“The urgent need for housing should not be a reason to set aside good planning. We’ve made that mistake too many times in the past.”

That development was also opposed by Labour’s Joan Burton in June who said that while there was demand for houses in Dublin, these needed to be “good developments”.

She said: “Dublin West has been the site of bad planning decisions over the years and I am determined that such mistakes are not repeated again.”

And here’s the objection letters:

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Why would government ministers be allowed to claim higher rate of mileage twice in a single year?

HEALTH Minister Simon Harris will be able to claim an extra €2,000 in tax-free mileage because of a bizarre loophole in expenses rules for ministers.

Mr Harris is being allowed to claim twice at a higher rate of mileage in a single calendar year because of a government circular from almost 25 years ago.

The “fresh start” loophole lets politicians who switch from being a Junior Minister to a Senior Minister during an election year be treated effectively as if they are new to the job.

Apparently, Simon Harris is the only one in the current government who falls into this unusual category.

The financial benefit is quite significant and means that Mr Harris will twice be able to claim for more than 6,000 kilometres at a rate of 59 cents per kilometre.

While serving at the Office of Public Works, Minister Harris claimed for 8,196 kilometres which was worth €4,302.94 in total to him.

Of that claim, 6,437 kilometres was paid at the higher rate of 59c/km and the remainder was paid at a much lower rate of 28c/km. You can see the rates on the Revenue website here.

When Mr Harris moved to the Department of Health, it would normally be expected that his mileage claims from then on would continue to be paid at the lower rate.

This is what would happen to civil servants who transfer between state bodies or departments.

However, because of a circular issued in 1992, Mr Harris was given a “fresh start” for the purposes of his mileage and the clock was effectively reset to zero.

The issue probably did not crop up in recent years because until 2011, senior Ministers were provided with a state car and did not have to make mileage claims.

However, the Fine Gael and Labour coalition abolished that system for all but the Taoiseach, Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and instead asked senior ministers to use their own cars and claim back for its use.

The 1992 letter now means that since June, Minister Harris has been paid at the higher rate of mileage for a second time this year.

In June, Mr Harris was paid €1,611.20 for 2,727 kilometres by the Department of Health, all at 59c/km, and almost €850 more than would have applied had he been paid at the lower rate.

Should the claims continue at the higher rate, the total amount paid in extra mileage will come to €1,970.

The Department of Health said the Minister had continued to be paid at the higher rate during July as well although details of his claim for that month are not yet available.

They said in a statement that this was consistent with the Department of Public Expenditure circular, a copy of which they released to back up the unusual payment perk.

The confidential document was issued in November 1992 (also an election year and of course long before the nuisance of FOI law!) to personnel officers of each government department.

It referred specifically to junior ministers and said that when calculating mileage allowances in a year in which a general election takes place “a new mileage year” would begin after polling.

It went on to say that one “fresh start” could be allowed in a single calendar year.

The Department of Health said: “[We] can confirm that the Minister’s mileage claims as submitted are fully in order. The questions which has arisen relates to the processing of the recent claims by the Department. When processing these claims the Department made an interpretation of [the] circular … however, in light of your query the Department will examine the interpretation of this circular and in reviewing the matter the Department will ensure the treatment applied to these claims is fully accurate and make any amendments deemed necessary.”

In a statement, the Department of Public Expenditure said that their Minister Paschal Donohoe had claimed mileage at the lower rate since his appointment there after serving earlier in the year at Transport.

I’ve tried to find other examples of the double claim at the higher rate but have not found one yet. Will update this post if I do.

The Department of Public Expenditure said: “The Revenue Commissioners have long regarded the public service rates as being adequate to reimburse the costs of cars and motoring where an individual uses their own car for business reasons.”

This is not the first time the Department of Health has been at the centre of mileage controversy.

Last year, then minister Leo Varadkar had to pay back almost €2,000 after it was discovered that he had been paid at the higher rate twice after switching department.

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The “Double Irish”, tax avoidance, on-shoring of assets and Ireland’s miraculous 26% growth rate

THE closure of the controversial “double Irish” and efforts to shut down other international tax avoidance schemes had a significant impact on the extraordinary 26% growth figure recorded in the Irish economy this year.

Documents obtained from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) and the EU suggest that “on-shoring” of assets by enormous multinationals are one of the key reasons behind the increase.

The growth rate – announced in July – has been dubbed “leprechaun economics” by Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman.

Details of the companies responsible for the colossal GDP increases are being closely guarded with plans to “suppress” some economic statistics that are routinely published.

Figures that would normally be included in CSO estimates will not now be made available because it might identify some of the multinationals involved.

The disclosures were made at a high-level meeting between officials from the Central Statistics Office, the Department of Finance and the Irish Fiscal Advisory Council in July.

A report of that meeting – which has been obtained under FOI – reveals the CSO believe some of the increase is being fuelled by firms juggling their assets because of a clampdown on tax avoidance schemes.

The documents make specific reference to the notorious “double Irish” scheme under which global companies avoided billions in taxes by channelling money through Irish companies.

They also refer to other tax avoidance strategies – commonly referred to as BEPS [Base Erosion and Profit Shifting] – which are being tackled as part of international efforts to shut them down.

The admission that Ireland’s tax avoidance schemes are one of driving forces behind the inflated GDP figures are likely to cause further difficulty for the government.

Ireland’s controversial tax strategies are already under the microscope after the EU Commission ordered tech giant Apple to pay back around €13 billion in unpaid taxes.

At the meeting in July, the Central Statistics Office attempted to answer a long list of questions that had been posed about the 26% figure.

They explained that the impact of the changes had come about in the first quarter of this year.

They said: “Other circumstances arise over the course of the year to affect company decisions e.g. the ongoing issue of BEPS and the pending closure of the ‘double Irish’ scheme.”

Couched in accountancy terminology, they go onto explain: “The ‘on-shoring’ of intangibles [assets like licensing agreements, trademarks, patented technology] is likely to continue, reflecting the influence of BEPS.”

At the time of the revelations, there was significant discussion of producing a separate more realistic set of GDP figures that would exclude the inflated increase.

However, the CSO said they could not suggest how this might be done “without breaching confidentiality”.

They said: “The CSO can confirm that the increase is mainly driven by MNEs [multi-national enterprises].”

In answer to another question, they said the main drivers of the increases were “company relocations” and that aircraft leasing – considered a significant factor back in July – was actually of “lesser significance”.

They explained that forthcoming statistical publications would have to be less detailed to protect the companies involved.

“Some of the sector detail in the CSO’s Estimate … scheduled for publication by end-year, will need to be suppressed,” they said.

“There are primary and secondary confidentiality issues to consider in what level of sector detail to provide, to prevent other companies in a given sector from being able to identify the data of competitors.”

This emphasis on protecting the multi-nationals was repeated in correspondence with Eurostat, the official EU statistics body, in documents released following a separate information request.

An official from the CSO described it as a “primary concern and challenge … in managing this difficult set of revisions”.

An internal Eurostat briefing note also again described the “on-shoring” of assets by multinational companies as the driver of the growth.

Assistant Director General of the CSO Jennifer Banim said in a statement: “The revisions published were based on hard data and attributable to the globalisation activities of a very small number of companies.

“However, the CSO is bound by strict confidentiality rules which means that we were limited in our ability to fully explain the revisions and obliged to suppress certain details such as the number of entities involved.”

They said they could not perform their job unless individuals and companies trusted them with “sensitive information” and were legally prohibited from disclosing data obtained in confidence.

Some of the CSO documents:

And the Eurostat note, both internal and external:

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The special adviser salaries and how Freedom of Information has helped significantly cut the annual wage bill

The Department of Public Expenditure has published a full list of all special adviser salaries on their website.

There are a handful of cases where people have jumped up the salary scale beyond the point that they should normally start as reported here previously.

There are also a couple of instances where individuals are above the scale altogether, mostly because of pre-existing deals.

However, it is worth pointing out that the costs here are well down from 2011.

And I would like to think that had something to do with the long series of FOI-based stories about salary cap breaches in those early days of the Fine Gael & Labour coalition, including this story I did on the negotiations for one adviser Ciaran Conlon and his €127,000 salary.

Again, I think we are seeing here one of the subtle but clear benefits of Freedom of Information where there is an obvious reluctance now by Ministers to get involved in making “business cases” to break salary caps.

The agreement that special advisers could be placed anywhere on the salary scale seems to me to be a halfway measure designed to give some wriggle room and at the same time not have emails and letters floating around demanding six-figure salaries.

So we now have a much lower annual pay bill and those savings will continue for however long the current government lasts … mostly thanks to our Freedom of Information Act.

You can read the full list of appointments with salaries below:

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Minister John Halligan used “erroneous” figures to overstate level of cardiac services at Waterford Hospital

THE head of the HSE’s national programme for coronary care said Minister John Halligan had misrepresented patient numbers to overstate the level of cardiac care services being provided at Waterford Hospital.

Prof Kieran Daly – clinical lead for the National Programme for Acute Coronary Syndrome – said that Halligan had used “erroneous” figures in an RTÉ radio interview.

In an email sent to HSE colleagues, Prof Daly said Mr Halligan had tried to compare the level of cardiac care being provided at the Mater Hospital and St James’ Hospital in Dublin with his own local hospital in Waterford.

In the message, Daly wrote: “This is erroneous and a misinterpretation of the ACS [Acute Coronary Syndrome] 2014 report where it was clearly pointed out figures for [the Mater] … were an underestimate because of incomplete data collection.”

The email was one of dozens of records released under FOI by the Department of Health about extending cardiac services at Waterford Hospital.

An upgrade of services has been a key demand of Minister of State John Halligan in return for supporting the government, and is currently the subject of an official review.

Professor Daly – in his email – explained that there was no comparison between service provision in Waterford and Dublin hospitals as Mr Halligan had suggested on radio in April of this year.

He said: “Currently [the Mater] and [St James’ Hospital] provide 24/7 cover for the larger Dublin area and broader catchment and deserve huge credit for the volume of cases dealt with.

“Both units average approx. 300 STEMI [heart attack] cases per year which is at least twice the activity of Waterford. Similar comparisons apply to other cardiology activity.”

Professor Daly asked that his concerns be raised with Health Minister Simon and his Department as part of a national review of coronary care which was originally given just a six-week deadline for completion.

The documents also reveal that Mr Halligan was coming under “immense pressure” to guarantee that a service was delivered for Waterford.

Just two weeks after the review began, his parliamentary assistant wrote to the Department of Health saying that Minister Halligan was “very anxious” to see how it was progressing.

“He is coming under immense pressure to ensure it is delivered. I urgently await hearing from you,” an email explained.

Within another week, Minister Halligan’s office was back on seeking an update saying “this is really quite urgent – we are now coming up on three weeks – half way into the six-week time frame”.

Although the documents are heavily redacted in parts, the Department of Health were aware that the short timeline originally set for the review was going to prove difficult.

An email sent to Professor Daly said: “Obviously we do not want to look at Waterford in isolation and at the same time fully appreciate the difficulties in completing the national review in the 6-week window we have been given.”

In a later letter sent from Minister Simon Harris to John Halligan, the timeline for the national review was later extended to three months.

Mr Harris said it “would not be possible” to complete it within the window originally provided and the review has only now been concluded.

The documents also reveal that concerns were being raised over whether the population of Waterford could justify enhanced cardiac care services. Ireland’s National Cardiovascular Policy set out criteria for 24-hour services with one centre intended for every 500,000 to 1 million population.

A briefing note explained: “Information from the 2011 census indicates that the population of Waterford is 113,795, well below the minimum threshold.

“While of course the [hospital] catchment goes beyond the county boundary and serves part of Wexford, South Kilkenny and South Tipperary, the 2011 census data … shows that the entire population of the South East would not have a sufficient population to sustain a 24 hour … service.”

Neither the HSE or Department of Health would comment in detail on the concerns raised about Mr Halligan’s figures pending the review.

The HSE said: “The Department of Health commissioned an independent report regarding cardiology services at Waterford University Hospital. The HSE awaits the outcome of this report.”

An edited version of this post appeared originally in last week’s Irish Mail on Sunday.

A selection of the documents are below

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Central Bank governor’s pay 40% higher than US counterpart while deputy governor pay negotiations see €13k cut in salary

IRELAND’S Central Bank chief is being paid significantly more than the head of the equivalent body in the United States, the Federal Reserve.

Internal documents deciding upon the salary level for a new Deputy Governor in the bank have revealed that the governor of the Central Bank Philip Lane gets over 40% more than his counterpart in the US.

In an email sent to staff, Mr Lane disclosed that his salary was paid at the rate of €254,048 per year – as compared to just US$199,700 (or €177,040) for the chairman of the Federal Reserve.

He suggested that the new appointee as Deputy Governor Sharon Donnery should have her salary worked out by direct comparison to his.

In an email sent in January of this year, he said: “I propose a rule that the salary of the deputy governor be set as a fixed ratio to the salary of the governor. A clean benchmark is that the governor salary is a 15 per cent premium above the deputy governor salary.”

He said a similar system was in use at other central banks and listed the salaries paid for the heads of each of them.

In the UK, the salary for the head of the Bank of England was set at GB£305,764 according to the email while the head of the European Central Bank received €378,240.

Mr Lane’s suggestion meant a salary of €220,911 for his new second-in-command Sharon Donnery, which turned out to be €13,000 lower than the amount the Central Bank had earlier planned to pay her.

Internal documents reveal there was confusion over what level the deputy governor would be paid after her appointment in January.

Previous incumbents had been paid a variety of wages with Tony Grimes on €242,540, Matthew Elderfield on €311,351, Stefan Gerlach on €230,350, and Cyril Roux on €310,000.

The Central Bank had originally planned to pay Ms Donnery €223,636-a-year and confirmed this in writing to both Finance Minister Michael Noonan and then Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin.

However, it was subsequently discovered that figure was incorrect and was almost €12,000 short of what it was supposed to have been.

An internal email from the resourcing section apologised for the error saying they “appreciate[d] the difficult position this now creates”.

When the correct salary was recalculated, the revised figure was discovered to be €235,125 and the contract for Ms Donnery was amended.

Another internal email on January 26 explained that they would now have to “send clarification letters to the relevant Ministers [Noonan and Howlin]”.

In response, Central Bank governor wrote: “Ok, it can be sorted tomorrow.”

The following day, internal discussions took place and it was decided that they would now be “taking another look” at the higher salary level.

By then, the Central Bank had made contact with a senior official in the Department of Finance to alert the government that the previously advised salary was incorrect, the email chain shows.

By the evening of January 27, a compromise arrangement had been decided upon and the salary of the new Deputy Governor was tied to that of the Governor and calculated as €220,911 per annum.

Central Bank Secret

In a statement, the Central Bank said the Deputy Governor position has been filled “following an open competition, and salary was determined by the [Central Bank] Commission in accordance with legislation”.

They said: “In line with international practice and comparator central banks, the Deputy Governor’s salary was set as a fixed percentage of the Governor’s salary.

“The set salary is lower than that of her predecessors, and the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Act applies to all employees of the Bank.”

The full set of salary negotiation documents below with a few redactions to clear individual email addresses:

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