THE Department of Foreign Affairs paid €165,000 for an armoured vehicle for Ireland’s most senior diplomat based in Palestine.
The Toyota Land Cruiser was bought last year to replace the ten-year-old vehicle that was previously used to drive Ireland’s Representative in Ramallah Jonathan Conlon.
The car was bought from Stoof International — a major manufacturer of armoured and specialty vehicles, which is based in Germany.
The vehicle was purchased via the Irish Embassy in Tel Aviv in Israel with a down-payment of €66,000 made last year, and the remaining €99,000 to be paid at a later date.
The armoured vehicle was one of ten high-end cars purchased by the Department last year at a cost of over €400,000 to the taxpayer.
That also included four BMWs, three Mercedes, a Volkswagen, and perhaps fittingly for the Irish Embassy in Stockholm, a Volvo.
The most expensive car by some distance was bought in the United Arab Emirates where €59,089 was spent on a Mercedes Benz E300.
The car, in obsidian black with a silk beige leather interior, was bought from the Emirates Motor Company in Abu Dhabi, and replaced a vehicle that had been bought in 2009.
Among the extras it came with was a “panoramic sliding sunroof”, a DVD player, a brown ash wood trim, and the fitting of an E Class flag pole costing €2,200 so that the tricolour could be displayed when driving on the city and desert roads.
In Saudi Arabia, €45,420 was spent on another Mercedes Benz, this time an E200 CGI. In a letter to the Irish Embassy in Riyadh, the local dealership wrote: “We, at Juffali Automotive Company, are deeply honoured by your interest in our range of Mercedes Benz passenger cars.”
In China, two separate BMW limousines were purchased, one each for the Embassy in Beijing and for the Consulate General in Shanghai.
In the Chinese capital, just over €32,000 was spent on a BMW 520i from the manufacturer’s luxury line. Â The Black Sapphire metallic car featured a “leather Dakota Veneto Beige exclusive stitching” interior, a sport leather steering wheel, 18-inch alloy wheels and a wood trim in “fineline anthracite”.
Meanwhile in Shanghai, a slightly better deal was secured for another BMW 520i and it cost just under €31,000 in part because of a summer discount of €2,500. The car was shipped from the German port of Bremerhaven at a cost of €1,650 and came with a €720 pennant holder.
In the Norwegian capital, a BMW 528I XDrive Limousine was purchased for just over €28,000 and came with the same pennant holder, and also featured a €287 seat heating system for the driver and front passenger to help ease them through the freezing Oslo winter.
Other diplomatic car purchases last year included €31,115 for a BMW in Thailand, and just over €30,000 for a Mercedes in Turkey.
The Department did opt for cars other than BMW and Mercedes in some countries. In Stockholm for instance, they purchased a home-made Swedish Volvo S80 for €33,954.
It came with a “diplomat package”, Volvo’s IntelliSafe Pro system, diplomatic registration plates, a €340 flag pole, and what was described as a €225 dark walnut inscription.
In Mexico, a different approach was also taken and a Volkswagen Passat was bought for 423,990 pesos, which at current exchange rate works out at just over €20,000 but appears from separate records released under FOI to have cost more.
The money was part of the more than €1.5 million spent by the Department of Foreign Affairs on official vehicles last year.
That included just over €754,000 for new vehicles at locations around the world and a further €746,000 for “car costs” including fuel, maintenance, and other similar bills.
The Department said: “Mission staff are required to undertake a good deal of travel in the performance of their official functions. This ranges from city journeys throughout the day and in the evening to long journeys of up to several hundred miles by road.
“As well as demanding schedules, in many cases there are also issues related to limited availability of public transport, security considerations etc.”
They said vehicles were purchased by local staff following sanction from Departmental headquarters in Dublin, and that steps were taken to ensure the “market is tested”.
The Department said it was policy that official cars are only purchased or replaced if necessary, for safety and security reasons, or where costs of maintenance and operating was no longer economical.
They said there had been a higher level of vehicle purchase in 2015 because replacement had been deferred in previous years due to the “difficult budgetary situation pertaining at that time”.
Full set of invoices below