Belfast Telegraph

America, India, Africa... the costly journeys of Stormont’s emissaries

By Adrian Rutherford

Stormont ministers and civil servants travelled around the world in the last two years, including trips to America, India and South Africa.

One of the most costly jaunts involved then-Culture Minister Nelson McCausland who headed to the United States with a special adviser and senior civil servant in September 2010.

The 10-day trip — intended to enhance links between Northern Ireland and the US — cost some £30,572.

Nearly £6,000 was spent on accommodation at the Marriott Hotel in Durham, North Carolina, the Willard Hotel in Washington and the Fitzpatrick Hotel in New York.

Mr McCausland and a special adviser also travelled to India in October 2010 at a cost of £9,423.

The four-day visit took in the Commonwealth Games in Delhi and a sports-related cabinet meeting. The overall cost included £7,406 for travel and £1,900 for accommodation at the luxury Le Meridien Hotel.

According to its website, the hotel offers “a truly unique experience in every one of its stylish guest rooms and suites”.

An official from the Department of Justice visited Bangalore in India in May 2010 at a cost of £3,845.

Three officials from the Department of Agriculture enjoyed a two-night stay at the five-star Hotel Sofitel in Brussels, costing £1,020. The overall cost of the trip was £3,139.

And in October 2010 two senior civil servants from the Department of Employment and Learning travelled to the US at a cost of £6,257

The cost of the flights topped £5,160 while another £938 was spent on accommodation at the Sheraton Raleigh Hotel in North Carolina and Washington's Westin Hotel.

An official from the Department of Finance and Personnel visited Johannesburg in South Africa, while a trip to the US by Margaret Ritchie and a senior civil servant cost £7,529.

Other ministers and officials travelled to cities across Europe.

Former Environment Minister Edwin Poots and eight colleagues attended a major climate change conference in Copenhagen in December 2009 at a cost of £8,766.

Meanwhile, £3,646 was spent sending two top officials from the Department of Agriculture to Luxembourg in October 2009. Their two nights’ accommodation at the five-star Hilton Luxembourg cost £584.

Then Regional Development Minister Conor Murphy and a special adviser also travelled to the Spanish city of Valencia in 2010.

The pair stayed at the four-star Vincci Lys hotel, costing £392. Its website boasts how rooms are “completely equipped with the most modern services to satisfy the most demanding traveller”.

Another civil servant from DRD travelled to Vienna in Austria for a conference at a total cost of £2,031.

They stayed for four nights in the four-star Radisson Hotel, which describes itself as a “lavish boutique hotel in the heart of Vienna”.

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