FIANNA Fáil Minister Dara Calleary has strongly defended his use of the government jet to return him to Knock Airport from Brussels at noon last Friday.
He explained to The Mayo News last night that he and officials had left Dublin late last Wednesday night, via the jet, to represent Minister Brian Lenihan, at a meeting of finance ministers in Brussels on Thursday.
Minister Lenihan was busy back in Dublin on the same day – dubbed Black Thursday by Labour’s Joan Burton – defending the latest twists in the country’s dismal fiscal situation.
“I arrived in Brussels at 1.30am on Thursday morning and started meetings at 7am. I continued working through lunch and dinner until 11pm that night,” Dara Calleary said.
“Then on Friday morning I started work in Brussels at 8am, finished at noon and worked during the return journey with officials from the Department of Finance,” he continued.
Minister Calleary told The Mayo News that after he was dropped off at Knock Airport, the jet spending about 20 minutes on the runway before returning to Dublin. A flight from Knoick to Dublin takes about 40 minutes.
“This was not a luxury by any means and was necessary since I was briefed on the outward journey and we assessed the meetings on our return journey,” Dara Calleary also said.
He told The Mayo News that after he arrived in Knock airport, he went on to attend scheduled constituency clinics and another function on Friday night.
He added: “I realise the use of the government jet is a controversial issue. I’ve used it three times in the last 18 months. Normally I leave Ballina in the middle of the night on Mondays for the early morning commercial flight from Dublin to Brussels.”