Hanoi Five Oh

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Documents obtained by journalist Ken Foxe following a Freedom of Information request

Five Oireachtas politicians went to Hanoi, Vietnam in March of this year for a meeting of the Inter-Parliamentary Union Assembly which meets twice a year.

They were Fine Gael Cathaoirleach of the Seanad Paddy Burke, Fine Gael TD Michelle Mulherin, Labour TD John Lyons, Fine Gael TD Noel Harrington and Fianna Fáil’s Barry Cowen.

The total cost of the trip amounted to €23,295.80.

Last night, journalist Ken Foxe – who broke the story in yesterday’s Irish Daily Mail following an FOI request – spoke to Mary Wilson on RTÉ’s Drivetime about the trip.

He explained that the trip cost more than expected, saying:

“There seems to have been a problem with the original flights that had been booked, via London, whereby the Vietnamese government came back to the Oireachtas and basically said that they were block-booking certain flights. So some of the travel arrangements had to be changed at the last minute and a couple of people had to travel out a day earlier. So there was additional costs associated with the flights and then there was extra nights at a hotel. But, in general, the costs were extremely high for this sort of trip, certainly when compared to the last four or five years when costs had generally been kept to a minimum.”

He explained that Deputy Mulherin’s flight – at almost €3,000 – was more expensive than her colleagues as she had to change her business class flight at short notice and return to Dublin for parliamentary business.

All of the politicians stayed in the five-star Lotte Hanoi Hotel.

Speaking about the hotel, Mr Foxe reported:

“It’s in the upper floors of a 65-storey skyscraper in Hanoi. It promises a new standard of international five-star hotel. The standard rooms there offer luxurious marble bathrooms, Hungarian goose feather bedding, menus of pillows and, apparently, a touch of Vietnamese sophistication.”

While every politician on the trip is entitled to claim for substance expenses, only Labour’s John Lyons has done so, so far.

His claim was for €856.69.

TDs and Senators travelling abroad are entitled to claim a daily “conference rate” which is set by Department of Foreign Affairs – with different rates set for different cities visited.

The politicians can also receive a top-up for certain types of trips – a system which was first set up in the 1950s and one which the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform has refused to reform, despite requests to do so from the Comptroller and Auditor General.

Listen back to Drivetime in full here

Thanks Ken Foxe

41 thoughts on “Hanoi Five Oh

  1. RainyDay

    Wait until you hear the amount of times the word ‘entitlement’ is used to explain this one away….. our wonderful entitled class….

  2. kwikan

    €856.69 for substance expenses!! In Vietnam!! For a 4-5 day trip. What substances was Labour’s John Lyons buying?
    I’ve been to Hanoi and €850 would go a long way in 5 days.

  3. Joe cool

    john lyons has minus 200% chance of being relected in Dublin n.w. . He may as well enjoy all the jollies he can get. Being from Ballymun, he’s not well liked amongst his fellow people either. Enjoy it, it ain’t gonna last

    1. bertie blenkinsop

      I’d say you’re right, outside of the social pages he’s been virtually invisible since he was elected.

  4. Jake38

    These people were voted in by the electorate. The general election is about the only event in this country where the punter gets what he deserves..

  5. fits

    4000 euro each. Its expensive but I dont really see how they could have done it very much cheaper. It seems to have been a 6-8 night trip. I dont really expect my public representatives to take rubbish flight connections and stay in hostels if they are going to be fit to work.

      1. fits

        Oh Im sorry, I forgot, all our politicians should always stay in Ireland at their desks and never go to anything. (yes it is a bit junkety, but thats part of the job no?)

    1. Nej

      Thank you for the voice of reason.

      The simple fact is that business (And this is classed as business) travel is not as cheap as personal travel. I do not expect elected officials to be bundled up into a cheap ryan air flight and arrived grumpy and off center (And jet lagged). PLUS they’re on business during their free time. I dont see any issues with this.

  6. Owen

    Am I missing something? I don’t see this as all that high. Over average yes. 8 day trip, 5 people, about 600 a day each, including hotel, flights and food. The hotel looks about €145 a night pp. I appreciate its Vietnam, but that’s all the more reason to stay in higher end. No matter what people think, government officials are not going to stay in a travel lodge. Also, rates go up when they know its a government official.

    1. ollie

      So, you think it’s ok for our elected representatives to go to Vietnam from 26th March to 2nd April and participate in 3 hours worth of meetings? Don’t forget that the money used to pay for this was borrowed by this Country.
      These people are parasites.

      1. Owen C

        4 day conference didn’t even begin until the evening of the 28th, at which point the screen grabs of the itinerary are conveniently left out!!!

      2. Owen

        I said nothing about why they were there, what they were doing, their policies / lack there of / or how they may be idiots. I said the cost is actually close to understandable given the trip location and duration.

  7. tinyd

    I don’t think the expenses are particularly high either, but I’m struggling to see what benefit the people of Ireland (or of Vietnam, for that matter) would get out of this trip. I’d have thought that a Skype call with a local representative of Irish Aid and other NGOs would be adequate.

      1. Owen C

        This was a 4-day global conference that started on the evening of the 28th. That’s the part they haven’t really explained well in the post.

  8. Happy Molloy

    They should travel at their own expense, and sleep in hostels, isn’t that right lads?

    And they should only go in the first place if my type of people agree with the agenda.

  9. Owen C

    This story or post seems deliberately set up to give a one sided impression of what went on in Hanoi. Why only the screengrabs of the first couple of days of what was a 6-day trip? The conference itself began on the evening of Saturday 28th March, and went on Sunday thru Wednesday. They all left on the Thursday. So the Irish delegation seemed to be operating in an official capacity all days Sat-Wed, with the first batch of them travelling out on the Wed. So you’re away from home, working, for a week, including working over a weekend, with a day or two of recovery from the flight at the start of it. Where is the scandal here???

  10. Observer

    I look forward to seeing what expenses RTÉ’s staff avail of when travelling overseas.

    I presume Ken Foxe will turn his attention to his own organisation’s use of public funds soon?

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