Park Avenue: Irish consulate

A SENIOR diplomat at one of the country's largest embassies was given a €121,000-a-year allowance for entertaining, the Department of Foreign Affairs has admitted.

The head of mission at the consulate's office on Park Avenue, New York had his allocation chopped last year, and a reduced fund of €75,000 was given instead.

The extravagant allowances for entertaining guests were made available to senior diplomats across the world.

In London, the yearly entertainment allowance currently stands at €60,000 and has shown no sign of falling.

At the embassy in Canberra, the head of mission enjoys a €43,000 annual entertainment allowance, while at the embassy in Washington DC, the figure is €68,000.

The entertainment allowance at other embass­ies including Brussels, Ottawa, Paris, Berlin, Vienna, Sydney, Rome and Mad­rid are generally about €30,000 a year for mission heads.

According to details released by the Department of Foreign Affairs, the taxpayer also funded more than €1.77m in private school fees for diplomats. School fees for staff in New York were the most expensive with tuition for three children in 2009 costing €113,000 – the equivalent of €37,666 per youngster.

Similar arrangements were also in place at embassies in Berlin, Brussels, London, Madrid, Rome and Washington DC, with fees of between €9,000 and €12,000 per child annually.

Details released by the Department of Foreign Affairs also show that €9.1m was spent providing rented accommodation for diplomats during the past two years.

Massive sums were also paid out in the so-called foreign service allowance, which is on top of the generous salaries already paid to these civil servants.

According to figures for 2008 and 2009, €8.4m was paid to around 150 senior diplomats as part of this allowance, an average of €28,000 each.

The Department of Foreign Affairs said: "The purpose of the foreign service allowance is to compensate for any additional costs arising from serving overseas and for variations in the cost of living.

"Officers of the Irish civil service going abroad have to be satisfied that they will be no worse off than they are at home."