MINISTER OF STATE Pat Breen has explained that the reasoning behind Enterprise Ireland’s decision to pay for a €4,398 flight from the US was in an effort to help him attend a family wedding in Malaga, Spain.
Deputy Breen was asked by Enterprise Ireland to participate in its inaugural life sciences trade mission to the twin cities of Minneapolis and St Paul in Minnesota in September 2016.
“Previous to this request, I had booked personal flights to attend a family wedding in Spain. The end of the trade mission clashed with the weekend wedding, which I had already committed to attend, so I had to turn down the Enterprise Ireland invitation initially.
“However, as the trade mission was deemed to be of significant importance to Ireland’s
indigenous life sciences sector and would benefit from the support of a ministerial presence,
Enterprise Ireland requested that I attend and remain in the US to complete the final engagements of the visit and then fly direct to Spain instead of Dublin,” the Ballynacally TD said.
“I agreedto do the final engagements, flew directly from the US to Spain, to arrive an hour late for the family occasion. I returned to Ireland on my own ticket that I had booked ahead of the wedding.”
Political party Renua, meanwhile, has demanded that Minister of State Breen repay the
cost of the flight in question. The party, who is not represented in Dáil Éireann, has called the funding into question.
‘‘This is a frivolous waste of taxpayers’ money and the cost of the flight should be recouped from
Minister Breen immediately. Alternatively, it should be treated as a benefit-in-kind and taxed appropriately.
Within the context of the national finances, the sum itself is small but it is a worrying example
of a growing trend where, like its predecessors, this Government is confusing public service with
self-service,” Renua leader John Leahy claimed.
Enterprise Ireland, however, said it pushed for Deputy Breen mto attend the US trade mission.
“The life science sector is very important to the Irish economy, employing over 50,000 people and with exports of more than €50 billion annually.
Eighteen Irish medtech companies were travelling on the mission, which aimed to facilitate the creation of business contacts and relationships and highlight Ireland as a key medtech hub.
As the trade mission was deemed to be of significant importance to Ireland’s indigenous life sciences sector 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 for the family occasion. The minister paid for the final leg from Spain to Dublin personally,” an Enterprise Ireland statement noted.