Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 31 January 2015

Mike Nesbitt slams cost of MLAs’ St Patrick’s Day trip to US

UUP leader Mike Nesbitt
UUP leader Mike Nesbitt
President Barack Obama joins in St Patrick's Day celebrations at The Dubliner Restaurant and Pub, Washington (AP)
Bagpipers march through New York during the 251st annual St Patrick's Day parade (AP)
Prime Minister of Ireland Enda Kenny, centre, joins in St Patrick Day celebrations in Chicago (AP)
Huge crowds gather for the St Patrick's Day Parade on O'Connell Street, Dublin
People young and old turned out to celebrate St Patrick's Day in Dublin
A member of The Irish Guards collapses before the arrival of the Duchess of Cambridge for their St Patrick's Day Parade in Aldershot
St Patrick's Day parade, Belfast, 2012
Huge crowds gather for the St Patrick's Day Parade on O'Connell Street, Dublin
Huge crowds gather for the St Patrick's Day Parade on O'Connell Street, Dublin
The St Patrick's Day Parade moves off from Belfast City Hall
The St Patrick's Day Parade moves off from Belfast City Hall
The St Patrick's Day Parade moves off from Belfast City Hall
The St Patrick's Day Parade moves off from Belfast City Hall
The St Patrick's Day Parade moves off from Belfast City Hall. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday March 17, 2012. The parade route takes revelers from City Hall to Custom House Square where there will be a free concert. Photo credit should read: Paul Faith/PA Wire
The golfing success of Darren Clarke, Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy is celebrated in the St Patrick's Day parade through Belfast city centre
St Patrick's Day celebrations and parade in Belfast city centre
St Patrick's Day celebrations and parade in Belfast city centre
St. Patrick's Day, 2012 in Belfast
How the Leaning Tower of Pisa will look when it is lit up green for St Patrick's Day
A flock of sheep dyed green for St Patrick's Day
Vienna's City Hall will be illuminated green to mark St Patrick's Day
The leaders of the four main churches take part in the St Patrick's Day parade in Downpatrick, 1985
Erin Kirby, seven, Eve Kirby and Saoirse Kenny, both six, at the Luas stop on St Stephens Green Dublin
St Patrick's Day Cross Community Carnival Parade - Downpatrick 17 March 2011
St Patrick's Day Cross Community Carnival Parade - Downpatrick 17 March 2011
St Patrick's Day Cross Community Carnival Parade - Downpatrick 17 March 2011
St Patrick's Day Cross Community Carnival Parade - Downpatrick 17 March 2011
St Patrick's Day Cross Community Carnival Parade - Downpatrick 17 March 2011
St Patrick's Day Cross Community Carnival Parade - Downpatrick 17 March 2011
St Patrick's Day Cross Community Carnival Parade - Downpatrick 17 March 2011
St Patrick's Day Cross Community Carnival Parade - Downpatrick 17 March 2011
St Patrick's day parade in Belfast City centre 2011
St Patrick's day parade in Belfast City centre 2011
St Patrick's day parade in Belfast City centre 2011
St Patrick's day parade in Belfast City centre 2011
St Patrick's day parade in Belfast City centre 2011
St Patrick's day parade in Belfast City centre 2011
St Patrick's day parade in Belfast City centre 2011
St Patrick's Day in Belfast city centre 2011
St Patrick's day parade in Belfast City centre 2011
St Patrick's day parade in Belfast City centre 2011
St Patrick's day parade in Belfast City centre 2011
St Patrick's day parade in Belfast City centre 2011
The annual St Patrick's Day parade takes place in Dublin. 2011
The annual St Patrick's Day parade takes place in Dublin. 2011
St Patrick's day parade in Belfast City centre 2011
St Patrick's day parade in Belfast City centre 2011
St Patrick's day parade in Belfast City centre 2011
St Patrick's day parade in Belfast City centre 2011
St Patrick's day parade in Belfast City centre 2011
St Patrick's day parade in Belfast City centre 2011
St Patrick's day parade in Belfast City centre 2011
People enjoying the St. Patrick's Day parade in Belfast City Centre.2011
The annual St Patrick's Day parade takes place in Dublin. 2011
St Patrick's Day celebrations in Armagh
St Patrick's Day celebrations in Armagh
St Patrick's Day celebrations in Armagh
St Patrick's Day celebrations in Armagh
St Patrick's Day celebrations in Armagh
St Patrick's Day celebrations in Armagh
St Patrick's Day celebrations in Armagh
St Patrick's Day celebrations in Armagh
St Patrick's Day celebrations in Armagh
St Patrick's Day celebrations in Armagh
St Patrick's Day celebrations in Armagh
St Patrick's Day celebrations in Armagh
St Patrick's Day celebrations in Armagh
St Patrick's Day celebrations in Armagh
St Patrick's Day celebrations in Armagh
St Patrick's Day celebrations in Armagh
St Patrick's Day celebrations in Armagh
The giant dragon which descended on spectators during the annual St. Patrick's Day Spring Carnival in Derry. Inpresspics.com. 17.3.11
St. Patrick's Day Spring Carnival in Derry. 17.3.11
St. Patrick's Day Spring Carnival in Derry. 17.3.11
St. Patrick's Day Spring Carnival in Derry. 17.3.11
St. Patrick's Day Spring Carnival in Derry. 17.3.11
St. Patrick's Day Spring Carnival in Derry. 17.3.11
St. Patrick's Day Spring Carnival in Derry. 17.3.11
St. Patrick's Day Spring Carnival in Derry. 17.3.11
St. Patrick's Day Spring Carnival in Derry. 17.3.11
St. Patrick's Day Spring Carnival in Derry. 17.3.11
St. Patrick's Day Spring Carnival in Derry. 17.3.11
St. Patrick's Day Spring Carnival in Derry. 17.3.11
St. Patrick's Day Spring Carnival in Derry. 17.3.11
St. Patrick's Day Spring Carnival in Derry. 17.3.11
St. Patrick's Day Spring Carnival in Derry. 17.3.11
St. Patrick's Day Spring Carnival in Derry. 17.3.11
People line the streets of Dublin for the annual St Patrick's Day parade. 2011
People line the streets of Dublin for the annual St Patrick's Day parade. 2011
People line the streets of Dublin for the annual St Patrick's Day parade. 2011
People line the streets of Dublin for the annual St Patrick's Day parade. 2011
St. Patrick's Day Spring Carnival in Derry. 17.3.11
St Patrick's Day 2010: Belfast
St Patrick's Day 2010: Belfast
St Patrick's Day 2010: Belfast
St Patrick's Day 2010: Belfast
St Patrick's Day 2010: Armagh
St Patrick's Day 2010: Armagh
St Patrick's Day 2010: Derry
St Patrick's Day 2010: Derry
St Patrick's Day 2010: Derry
St Patrick's Day 2010: Derry
St Patrick's Day 2010: Derry
St Patrick's Day 2010: Derry
St Patrick's Day 2010: Derry
St Patrick's Day 2010: Derry
St Patrick's Day 2010: Derry
A painting of Saint Patrick is seen outside Saint Patrick's Cathedral during the 249th annual St. Patrick's Day parade March 17, 2010 in New York City
St Patrick's Day 2010: London
St Patrick's Day 2010: Belfast
Flashback .... St Patrick's Day 2010: Belfast
St Patrick's Day 2010: Belfast
St Patrick's Day 2010: Belfast
St Patrick's Day 2010: Belfast
St Patrick's Day 2010: Belfast
St Patrick's Day 2010: Downpatrick
St Patrick's Day 2010: Downpatrick
St Patrick's Day 2010: Dublin
St Patrick's Day 2010: London
St Patrick's Day 2010: London
St Patrick's Day 2010: Belfast
St Patrick's Day 2010: Belfast
St Patrick's Day 2010: Belfast
St Patrick's Day 2010: Belfast
St Patrick's Day 2010: Belfast
St Patrick's Day 2010: Belfast
St Patrick's Day 2010: Belfast
St Patrick's Day 2010: Belfast
St Patrick's Day 2010: Nottingham
St Patrick's Day 2010: Nottingham
St Patrick's Day 2010: Nottingham
St Patrick's Day 2010: Nottingham
St Patrick's Day 2010: Nottingham
St Patrick's Day 2010: London
St Patrick's Day 2010: London
St Patrick's Day 2010: London
St Patrick's Day 2010: London
St Patrick's Day 2010: London
St Patrick's Day 2010: Belfast
St Patrick's Day 2010: Belfast
St Patrick's Day 2010: Belfast
St Patrick's Day 2010: Downpatrick
St Patrick's Day 2010: Downpatrick
St Patrick's Day 2010: Downpatrick
St Patrick's Day 2010: Downpatrick
St Patrick's Day 2010: Downpatrick
St Patrick's Day 2010: Downpatrick
St Patrick's Day 2010: Downpatrick
St Patrick's Day 2010: Belfast
St Patrick's Day 2010: Downpatrick
St Patrick's Day 2010: Downpatrick
St Patrick's Day 2010: Belfast
St Patrick's Day 2010: Belfast
St Patrick's Day 2010: Belfast
St Patrick's Day 2010: Belfast
St Patrick's Day 2010: Belfast
St Patrick's Day parade through Belfast. March 2010
St Patrick's Day parade through Belfast. March 2010
St Patrick's Day parade through Belfast. March 2010
St Patrick's Day parade through Belfast. March 2010
St Patrick's Day parade. Belfast. March 2010
St Patrick's Day parade. Belfast. March 2010
St Patrick's Day parade. Belfast. March 2010
St Patricks Day parade. Belfast. March 2010
St Patricks Day parade. Belfast. March 2010
St Patricks day celebrations, Belfast 09
St Patricks day celebrations, Belfast 09
St Patricks day celebrations, Belfast 09
St Patricks day celebrations, Belfast 09
St Patricks day celebrations, Belfast 09
St Patricks day celebrations, Belfast 09
St Patricks day celebrations, Belfast 09
St Patricks day celebrations, Belfast 09
St Patricks day celebrations, Belfast 09
St Patricks day celebrations, Belfast 09
St Patricks day celebrations, Belfast 09
St Patrick's Day Celebrations Belfast 2009
St Patricks day celebrations, Belfast 09
St Patrick's Day Celebrations Belfast 2009
St Patrick's Day Celebrations Belfast 2009
St Patricks day celebrations, Belfast 09
St Patricks day celebrations, Belfast 09
St Patricks day celebrations, Belfast 09
St Patrick's Day Celebrations Belfast 2009
St Patrick's Day Celebrations Belfast 2009
St Patrick's Day Celebrations Belfast 2009
St Patricks day celebrations, Belfast 09
St Patrick's Day Celebrations Belfast 2009
St Patrick's Day Celebrations Belfast 2009
St Patrick's Day Celebrations Belfast 2009
St Patrick's Day Celebrations Belfast 2009
St Patricks day celebrations, Belfast 09
St Patrick's Day Celebrations Belfast 2009
St Patricks day celebrations, Belfast 09
St Patricks day celebrations, Belfast 09
St Patricks day celebrations, Belfast 09
St Patricks day celebrations, Belfast 09
St Patricks day celebrations, Belfast 09

A row has erupted between Stormont politicians over how many MLAs should travel to Washington to celebrate St Patrick’s Day at the taxpayers’ expense.

The political clash was sparked after the chair of the OFMDFM committee, Mike Nesbitt, said five members instead of the usual two had been invited.

If the new invitations are accepted it could result in the trip, that is paid for by the taxpayer, trebling in cost to more than £17,000.

Mr Nesbitt, who objected to the increase, said that traditionally it was ministers in the Executive who are invited to Washington for the St Patrick’s Day celebrations, along with the chair and vice-chair of the OFMDFM Committee.

This year, however, the invitation was extended to include a committee representative from Sinn Fein, DUP and SDLP.

Mr Nesbitt said: “I cannot see any way the committee can justify the cost of sending extra members on this trip.

“Given the huge financial difficulties many people are facing during these times of austerity, I don’t believe that what the public want to see is more money from the public purse being spent on a trip to the USA.”

He proposed that just the chair and the vice-chair should go and not representatives of the other three parties on the committee. It was put to a vote and Mr Nesbitt was defeated.

Both Sinn Fein and the DUP said it should be left to the parties to decide.

It is understood they will decide on Monday who will attend.

A fact-finding trip to Cuba last year by representatives of the Stormont Health Committee sparked controversy after it cost £6,000 per person.

Sinn Fein's Sue Ramsey and the DUP's Jim Wells made the trip to attend a conference and to see health projects in the country first-hand.

Background

The St Patrick’s Day parade in New York City is the largest in the world with 200,000 people taking part and more than two million spectators. It has long been seen as the place to be seen for Irish leaders on both sides of the border and an invitation is viewed as a measure of influence and standing within the US establishment. Parades and celebrations are also held across the rest of America, particularly in cities like Chicago and Boston.

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