Presently in our State there are 27 Ministerial cars driven by 54 armed Garda drivers, defending both our retired and current elected public representatives over the past two years, from one egg and one container of red paint.
Now with only one arrest, it is time to take a look at the costs of this protection, which Mary Harney will confirm was far from adequate, when related to the overall outgoing costs.
Garda Driver Salary Costs: In 2008 €4.6 million. In 2009 €4.2 million. — TOTAL = €8.8 million.
Motor Fuel Costs: In 2008 €218,677. In 2009 €183,493. ———————– TOTAL =€286,941.
Depreciation Costs: In 2008 €331,142. In 2009 €541,045. ——————— TOTAL = €872,187.
Replacement car Costs:In 2008 €509,675.85. In 2009 nil. ——————– TOTAL = €509,675.85.
Total Cost to the taxpayer : €10.9 million.
As far as I am aware not one revolver was upholstered during that two year period, to protect a minister and police are still looking for the individual who tossed the eggs at Mary Harney at the gates of Nenagh Hospital. (Or is it looking for the tosser who threw the individual egg – not sure.)
The Government Jets
Still, while we are discussing the subject of Ministerial travel, lets have a peep at the use of the Government jets, (Yes there are two of them) or to give them their proper title “The Tax Payers Jets”
Take Note: Direct flying costs per hour for the Gulfstream are €4,050 and €1,270 for the Learjet, which over a three year period cost €2.25 million in maintenance for both machines.
In 2009 the Gulfstream landed six times and the Learjet landed 11 times in Cork with Mr Micheál Martin on board, while the Gulfstream landed twice and the Learjet landed four times at Knock with Ms Mary Coughlan on board. You understand Derry and Knock airports are closest to Ms Coughlan home in wild Co Donegal.
In 2010 the Gulfstream jet passed over my house here in Thurles and landed in Cork eight times to facilitate Foreign Affairs Minister Micheál Martin and once for Enterprise Minister Batt O’Keeffe, while the Learjet landed four times in Cork to facilitate Mr Micheál Martin and twice in Derry for Tanaiste Mary Coughlan.
Ministers who have chauffeur-driven cars often board at Baldonnel and are picked up later at an airport closer to home, after their garda driver has made the journey by road to meet them.
(Drug dealers take note – In relation to Baldonnel Aerodrome, no searches of aircraft were carried out in the year 2009, or up to November 2010, on the basis that profiling of the traffic using the aerodrome and review of available intelligence suggests that the risk of smuggling through this location is minimal. Still in 2006 was Mr John Kinsella got arrested following the seizure of €10 million worth of heroin in Belgium, and did Judge Cormac Dunne not state, taking into account the lax security and screening at private airports in Ireland and Europe, that there was a high risk that Mr Kinsella could evade justice. Mr Kinsella was arrested as he tried to board an Irish private jet at an airport in southern Belgium. The jet had flown to Belgium from Weston Airport in Co Kildare.)
Forgive me, I am inclined to deviate.
In 2008, Health Minister Mary Harney travelled to Phoenix, Houston and Las Vegas where she attended, amongst other events, the Super Bowl, at a cost to you of €163,891.
In 2008 also Tánaiste Mary Coughlan and ‘gunslinger’, newspaper columnist, newly appointed Spokesperson for Communications and former Defence Minister Willie O’Dea, took the Government jet to Austin, Texas, at a cost of €164,000, to meet Dell Executives about 1,900 Limerick Dell computer job losses. It was a wasted trip and a first class scheduled return flight with ‘drinkies’ would only have cost less than €1,500 each.
In 2008 Minister Dermot Ahern travelled to East Timor and Australia at a cost of €259,150. Little stop overs included Dubai, Kuala Lumpur, Darwin and Bahrain, which I understand are lovely at that time of year.
In 2009, the Taoiseach approved 126 requests for Cabinet or junior Ministers of State to use Air Corps aircraft.
In February 2009, Foreign Affairs Minister Micheál Martin travelled to Cuba and Mexico at a cost of €178,182.
In July 2004, former Enterprise Minister Mary Harney travelled to Florida on a trip largely concerned with FÁS, yet used the government jet to carry her husband, the then FÁS Chairman, with former FÁS Director General and €3.8m ‘golden handshaker Rody Molloy and his wife. Minister Harney claims it was legitimate use of the Government jet.
The Fianna Fail Government in 2010 dispatched one jet to fly the junior Minister for Trade Minister Billy Kelleher from London to ensure a crucial vote on the Cabinet reshuffle at a cost to the taxpayer of €5,900.
Dara Calleary, the Junior Enterprise Minister used the Government jet to get to Brussels the night before a meeting of EU finance ministers, at a cost of €9,000 to the taxpayer.
In the past, former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern would land at Dublin Airport, rather than at Baldonnel — 20km from his home — which would require extra landing and take-off costs.
In 2010 retired Transport Minister Noel Dempsey took the Government jet to Donegal for a speaking engagement at a cost of €13,000.
Government Ministers took 144 internal flights within the State over a 2½ year period between 2007 and 2009, at a total cost of €350,000 to the taxpayer and to add fuel (No pun intended) to the fire some €140,000 was spent separately on aircraft catering costs for 2007 and 2008.
So there you go, now we know at least where some of our money vanished. Are we not a great little Island?