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Council spent over €12k on councillors’ foreign trips

News

Anton McNulty

Mayo County Council spent over €12,000 sending nine councillors on foreign trips in 2017 and 2018, with one councillor claiming over €600 in expenses for getting to and from Dublin Airport.
The annual report on Mayo County Council’s payments to elected members in 2018 was released last week. A total of €979,734.11 was allocated to councillors for salaries, expenses and allowances during the year.
The largest allocation went to Independent councillor Richard Finn, who served as Cathaoirleach of Mayo County Council from June 2017 to June 2018. He received €54,501.19. The second-largest claim was by current Cathaoirleach, Cllr Blackie Gavin, who claimed €39,453.09.
The largest allocation to a councillor who did not serve as a Cathaoirleach or leas-Cathaoirleach was to Geesala-based councillor Gerry Coyle, who received €38,975.15. This included an annual allowance of €10,260.79, the largest allowance received by any of the 31 councillors who received payments in 2018.
A total of nine councillors claimed for expenses for official foreign trips between July 2017 and September 2018, with the majority travelling to the US. There were also trips to Lithuania, Spain, France and the UK. A total of €12,315.35 in expenses were paid to councillors following these trips, with Cllr Finn receiving €3,028.
He travelled twice to Marujampole, Lithuania, the first time in December 2017 for an official twinning ceremony and again in May 2018 on an official visit. He visited New York, Cincinnati and Providence in the US in July 2017; London in December 2017 (to attend the Mayo Association in London’s annual Dinner Dance); Milwaukee in the US for the Milwaukee Irish Festival in August 2017; and Caceres, Spain, for the Eurovelo 1 meeting in September 2017.
Cllr Finn along with three other councillors – Gerry Coyle, Michael Holmes and Annie-May Reape – also travelled to New York, Philadelphia and Rhode Island for the annual St Patrick’s Day festivities from March 10 to March 19, 2018. They each claimed €891.45 for the nine-day stay in the US.
The four councillors were also paid expenses for ‘travel to Dublin Airport for trip to USA’, with Cllr Coyle claiming €628.39, Cllr Finn claiming €431.25, and Cllr Holmes and Cllr Reape claimed €270.78 and €197.08 respectively.
The other councillors who claimed expenses for foreign trips included Cllr Cyril Burke, who claimed €1,286.56 for official visits to Cleveland in October 2017 and Peekskill, New York, in March, 2018; Cllr John Caulfield, who visited Cleveland in September 2017, Leeds in February 2018 and Marijampole in May 2018 and received €938.21; Cllr Michael Smyth who visited Cleveland in September 2017 and Pittsfield, US, in July 2018, and received €1,896.04 and Cllr Michael Kilcoyne and Cllr Martin McLoughlin, who received €861.62 and €861.92, respectively, for visiting Peekskill, New York, in March 2018. Cllr Holmes also visited Cleveland and Plougastel, France, in 2018 and received a total of €1,650.10 in expenses.
Only 12 of the 33 councillors who received payments received less than €30,000, with Cllr Frank Durcan receiving €23,525.15, the lowest of the councillors over the 12-month period. Sinn Féin councillor Joe McHale received less with €19,569.28, but he was only co-opted to replace Therese Ruane last February. Ms Ruane also received €16,997.41 as a gratuity payment when she resigned her seat.
A total of €60,312.33 was given in allowances to 12 councillors who served as either cathoirleachs or leas-cathoirleachs of Mayo County Council or the various municipal districts.
Nine councillors did not claim expenses for attending conferences and training seminars in Ireland, with €83,750.08 paid out to those who did, while every councillor received an annual representative payment of €16,873.19.