IRISH diplomats have shared almost one million euro in bonus payments because they are based at so-called “hardship” postings in foreign cities including Buenos Aires, Beijing and Bucharest.
The top-ups have been paid to 91 staff of the Department of Foreign Affairs who are stationed at embassies and consulates abroad.
Figures obtained in response to a Freedom of Information request reveal that just over €657,000 was paid out in 2015 in “hardship” payments for staff based in 31 different cities around the world.
So far this year, another €333,000 has been paid out to diplomatic staff at 30 separate locations, with one city — Bucharest in Romania — losing its hardship status.
The single largest hardship payments have been to staff based at the embassy in Maputo, the capital of Mozambique, where close to €80,000 has been shared amongst an undeclared number of people based there.
On average, the payments have been worth around €11,000 per diplomat over the past two years.
The postings are slotted into one of five different categories with ‘A’ considered the highest level of hardship and ‘E’ at the other end of the spectrum.
The Department said the payments were designed to take into account “significant factors” that might arise in certain locations.
They explained that these included personal security and political tension, climate, health, language, culture, goods and services, housing, education and isolation.
While some of the cities certainly do seem to merit their hardship category, it is more difficult to see why others might attract the bonus payments.
Payments for Category ‘E’ cities ranged from €8,000 to €12,500 but included popular holidays cities like Buenos Aires in Argentina, Abu Dhabi in the Gulf, Seoul in South Korea and Tel Aviv in Israel.
Perhaps more surprising were some of the cities categorised as ‘D’, which included both Shanghai and Beijing in China, Bangkok in Thailand, and the Russian capital Moscow.
In Category ‘C’ were a number of African cities including Nairobi (Kenya), Addis Ababa (Ethiopia), and Cairo (Egypt), along with Hanoi in Vietnam and the Indian capital New Delhi.
Just five cities featured in the top two categories, with the West Bank city of Ramallah, the Indonesian capital Jakarta, and Maputo given a ‘B’ grade by the Department of Foreign Affairs.
Only Abuja in Nigeria and Freetown in Sierra Leone were given an ‘A’ ranking, considered the gold standard of ‘hardship’ for diplomatic staff.
The Department of Foreign Affairs said in a statement: “Hardship locations are scored by an independent employment conditions consultancy and scored according to hardship themes.
“Locations that score above a defined threshold are defined as hardship, and placed in different categories of hardship according to the overall score.
“During the annual review process, a location’s status as a hardship location can change as the scoring attributed to them under the various themes alter — locations move in and out of hardship status and in this context, Bucharest lost its status as a hardship post in 2016.”