Over €3,000 was paid out to Donegal councillors for travelling to a conference in Wexford when a similar conference was being held the same weekend in Letterkenny.
According to a report in today’s Irish Independent, a total of €3,031 was paid out to Cllrs. John Ryan, Barry O’Neill, Mickey Doherty, Michael McBride and County Mayor Frank McBrearty. They travelled to Bunclody, Co. Wexford in November 2011 to attend an event called ‘Training Seminar for Councillors: The Local Government Budget 2012’.
That same weekend, November 18-20, Wexford Cllr. Michael Kinsella travelled up to Letterkenny to attend ‘Local Governance Training Seminar: Local Authority Budgets 2012’ at the Silver Tassie Hotel.
Fine Gael’s John Ryan told the Independent he hadn’t known that there was a similar event on in Letterkenny. When asked why the councillors hadn’t shared cars on the journey, he said “That’s a very good question.” Cllr. Ryan added: “There are anomalies with the way people go about the country to go to conferences. I think the system is fundamentally flawed.”
Mayor Frank McBrearty (Lab) stood by his decision to go to Wexford, stating: “I’ve been to a number of conferences that weren’t a benefit but that was definitely a good one. It was actually the best conference I was ever at. The speaker was an absolute wealth of knowledge.”
Independent Cllr. Michael McBride also said it was the right choice. “I felt the agenda (of the Wexford conference) was more beneficial to me. That’s the reason I went there and I stand over it.”
Cllr. Barry O’Neill said he hadn’t made any expenses claim to date for the trip.
Cllr. Mickey Doherty told the Donegal Democrat this morning: “We get a list of conferences we’re allowed to attend and it’s up to us to decide which ones would be most beneficial. Notification about upcoming conferences is given to us, along with our meeting agendas, by Donegal County Council.
“As regards the event in Letterkenny, I had no idea it was on and, of course, I would have gone there if I had, instead of going to Wexford. I’ve no desire to be driving from one end of the country to the other.
“Also, I didn’t spend anything near my budget last year because I don’t believe in going to conferences for the sake of it. I only go if I believe it’s going to be worthwhile.
“With regard to the quality of the event in Wexford, I agree wholeheartedly with Frank McBrearty, that it was without a doubt one of the best seminars I’ve ever been at.”
The Independent also revealed today that no less than 112 councillors, including 15 from Kerry, travelled to Glenties to attend the MacGill Summer School in 2011.