Five-star hotels, business class flights, and the €4,000 airfare so a minister wouldn’t miss a family event

ENTERPRISE Ireland spent over €4,000 flying a government minister from the USA to a family event in Spain because they didn’t want him to miss a trade mission.

The state body brought junior minister Pat Breen to Minneapolis and Saint Paul late last year for their inaugural “Life Sciences” trade mission there .

However, they later discovered that Mr Breen was double-booked for a family event in the south of Spain, which he did not want to miss.

To make sure he could do both, Enterprise Ireland ended up paying €4,398 for a flight from Minneapolis to Malaga last September.

The cost was driven up dramatically by an overnight business class flight from the US to Paris Charles de Gaulle where Mr Breen caught his connecting flight to Spain.

By comparison, the outgoing trip from Dublin to Minneapolis via Chicago had only cost €887, bringing the total flight cost to €5,285.

The air ticket was part of more than €30,000 spent on the three-day trade mission last September, records from Enterprise Ireland reveal.

Close to €16,000 was spent on a reception with “other costs” of €4,437 run up during the event.

It also included a €2,700 hotel bill from the four-star Radisson Blu in Minneapolis, which covered the cost of Minister Breen and two staff.

Three nights for each of the three at the hotel in the “Twin Cities landmark” was charged at the rate of just over €300 each night.

That was not the most expensive hotel that Enterprise Ireland booked for Mr Breen last year however.

That accolade was reserved for the Oberoi Hotel in the Indian city of Bengaluru (formerly known as Bangalore) where the Clare TD spent his final night of a trade mission last November.

A second-floor room at the five-star hotel ended up costing just over 30,000 rupees, the equivalent of almost €400 based on this week’s exchange rates.

The hotel is one of the finest in the city with each room having its own private balcony overlooking the property’s “vast, exquisite gardens”.

It was one of a string of five-star hotels that Mr Breen stayed in during his stay in India.

He also spent two nights at the Oberoi in Mumbai, another of the country’s finest hotels with “an unrivalled position on the exclusive Marine Drive, with unparalleled views of the ocean and the Queen’s Necklace [a local landmark]”.

The accommodation there was slightly cheaper, this time at just 25,000 rupees per night with the total cost around €650.

Mr Breen stayed two nights in the capital New Delhi as well, this time at the ITC Maurya not far from the Irish Ambassador’s €29,000-a-month residence in the city.

The cost of that two-night stay was 51,000 rupees, again just over €650 at current exchange rates.

Overall, the bill for Mr Breen’s accommodation came to €1,614, according to a table of costs provided by Enterprise Ireland.

His flights for the trip – business class via Abu Dhabi and including internal transfers – set the taxpayer back €3,345.

Altogether, the trade mission, which involved India and the Gulf States, cost almost €85,000 of which €19,000 was clawed back through “client participation” fees.

A reception cost €10,303, with transport costs of over €3,000. Venue hire was just under €14,000 while “support” cost €13,233 and €19,237 was spent on promotion and printing.

As part of that trade mission, Minister Charlie Flanagan also travelled to Dubai and the Saudi capital Riyadh; his hotel costs of €606 were paid for by Enterprise Ireland.

Asked about the expense of the Spanish flight for Minister Pat Breen, his department said: “[He] had previously booked personal flights to attend a family event in the Spain in the week of the US trade mission.

“However, as the trade mission was deemed to be of significant importance … and would benefit from the support of a ministerial presence, Enterprise Ireland requested that the minister remain in the US to complete the final engagements of the visit, thus losing his flight bookings to Spain.

“He agreed to do so on the understanding that he could fly directly from the US to Spain to arrive in time for the family occasion. The minister paid for the final leg from Spain to Dublin personally.”

In a statement, Enterprise Ireland said the trade missions were to “key markets” and part of their plans to grow client exports by €5 billion per annum.

They said: “Both trade missions were important for Irish companies to grow exports. The USA is the top global market for the Irish Life Sciences sector which employs over 30,000 people and India is a key market for Irish exports where exports in 2016 were €68 million.”

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