£6,500 spent to fly minister Noel Dempsey from Derry to Dublin
Transport Minister Noel Dempsey used the government jet and his ministerial car to attend a summer school in Northern Ireland.
He used the luxury Gulfstream IV jet, which costs €7,890 (£6,547) per hour and is capable of flying across the Atlantic, to fly from Dublin to Londonderry instead of the smaller, second government jet — the Learjet — as that was undergoing maintenance at the time.
And when he landed his Garda driver was on hand to pick him up in his ministerial car after having driven 247km from Dublin.
Mr Dempsey was then driven a further 94km from Derry City Airport to the MacGill summer in Glenties, Co Donegal, so he could be in time for his 4pm speech on July 19 last.
But Mr Dempsey said last night that he needed the government jet to attend an official meeting in London that had come up at relatively short notice. He said he could not give details of the meeting because it was sensitive government business, relating to aviation.
“The meeting was a very, very important one and in this instance it was the best, most effective and probably the only way I could do it,” he said.
After his speech, Mr Dempsey was driven back to Derry Airport by his Garda driver before taking the government jet to London at 8pm. Mr Dempsey said his office had investigated all the alternatives and knew they were under orders to get him to places in the most economical way.
Mr Dempsey also defended the use of his Garda driver, who had to make a round trip of around 680km.
“He is security for me. I was going into Northern Ireland, but even if I was going to Kerry somebody would have to be there for me,” he said.
Fine Gael Donegal North East TD Joe McHugh said Mr Dempsey's transport choice was a missed opportunity for the local economy.
“The minister could have flown into Donegal Airport in Carrickfinn and put some money in the pocket of a local taxi driver to take him to Glenties,” he said.
Frank McBrearty, a Labour councillor in Donegal, also accused Mr Dempsey of wasting taxpayers' money.
“The least he could have done was to fly in to Donegal Airport in Carrickfinn,” he said.