There are some things money can't buy. For everything else, there's...
Irish embassy staff are living it large and running up massive bills on everything from lavish meals in top restaurants to furniture from upmarket stores. Ken Foxe, Public Affairs Correspondent, finds out how ambassadors are spoiling themselves, at our expense
They are our representatives abroad and have the privilege of working in some of the most desirable cities in the world. Now it seems that our ambassadors and embassy staff have learned a trick or two from their political bosses when it comes to the expenses system.
Hundreds of thousands of euro have been charged to government-issued credit cards by our men in
Meals costing over €2,000, NBA basketball tickets, wine at off-licences, home furnishings, pictures and congestion charges were all paid for by credit cards, with the bill inevitably picked up by the taxpayer.
The credit cards were held at a selection of embassies abroad including
The largest bills were run up at the embassy in
In February 2007, a credit-card statement listed a $690 (€530) transaction for tickets to see the Chicago Bulls basketball team in action.
A month later, embassy officials travelled to
Several of the most exclusive restaurants in
One restaurant, the
On another occasion, diplomats chowed down at Rosebud Prime Steaks in
St Patrick's Day routinely witnessed massive expenditure, with the festivities of 2008 resulting in a $6,290 (€4,837) bill from the Westin Michigan Hotel.
October of that year also proved costly, with a $5,018 (€3,860) bill charged to the card, which included a $2,485 (€1,911) tab at Antoine's Restaurant in
Also charged to a separate card that month was the purchase of a sofa for $1,600 (€1,230).
Two days in
Bills of more than £13,000 (€15,000) a month were run up at the embassy in
Monthly transactions, listed only as "The Labour Party" and "www.conservativeparty.com", were also charged on a monthly basis at £272 (€328) each.
The card was also used for the upkeep of embassy cars with £1,063 (€1,283) charged at BMW Battersea, £309 (€373) at Kwikfit the following month, and £1,696 (€2,048) on the city's congestion charge.
A stereo or other sound equipment was also charged to the taxpayer at a cost of £975 (€1,777) and purchased from Bose Samsung in the centre of
Significant home furnishing bills were run up at the embassy in
Bills of $1,530 (€1,176) and $2,409 (€1,852) were charged at Bloomingdales while two more transactions of $1,552 (€1,193) and $1,259 (€968) were made at exclusive interior design store Scully & Scully on
The following month, another $2,205 (€1,695) was charged at Scully & Scully for "residence furniture" with another $2,487 (€1,912) spent the next month on "kitchen goods".
The home-improvement bills did not end there and the following May another $1,500 (€1,153) was spent at
A year later, the embassy spent close to $9,000 (€6,921) in a single month, with $6,000 (€4,614) paid out to tigerdirect.com, a computer firm, and another $2,991 (€2,300) paid to Amazon.com.
At the Irish embassy in Ottawa, Canada, significant bills were also accrued, with around CA$1,500 (€1,107) spent at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel in Toronto in May 2007 and another CA$620 (€457) spent at the "flag shop" in Ottawa.
The embassy also paid for two hotel stays in
The first charge was made on 20 December for CA$780 (€575) at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel with another CA$778 (€574) paid out on 9 January. A further charge of CA$136 (€100) was made at the Cable Beach Resort in the
A sum of almost CA$30,000 (€22,000) was spent on furnishing the new ambassadorial residence in November and December of last year, with CA$2,737 (€2,020) spent at Sears and a further CA$7,989 at Jordash, a kitchen supplier.
Embassy staff kept in shape at the Fitness Depot in
The cards at the Embassy and Permanent Representation in
Significant fuel bills of up to €600 a month kept the embassy limousine on the road with regular car-wash costs of €252 also billed to the taxpayer.
The card was also used for the purchase of flowers in
Other more significant items of expenditure were also charged, with a €2,263 bill from an electronic appliance store in
A statement said: "The Department of Foreign Affairs operates a restrictive policy for the use of corporate credit cards for official expenditure.
"The use of credit cards in making payments is subject to the same authorization and control procedures as other forms of payment.
"While the credit card companies require that the accounts be operated by named authorized signatories, it must be stressed that they are used exclusively for official, rather than personal use."
These abuses of the public trust are nothing short of obscene! In a recent article featured in this blog I highlighted similar abuses by former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and his predecessors in that office. I thought at the time that, regardless of having held that esteemed office, they were afforded privileges far beyond what they should receive in retirement. This article proves that those in public office and, indeed, many others in government positions in
Jack Meehan, Past National President
Ancient Order of Hibernians in