Tropical taste: all-expenses-paid trip

Cash-strapped Fingal County Council is preparing to send a delegation of councillors on an all-expenses- paid trip to a winter conference in Bermuda, the Sunday Tribune has learned.

According to a brochure circulated to members recently, participants can expect to avail of the island's "breathtaking pink sand beaches, iridescent turquoise waters, friendly people and a sophisticated ambiance".

In the brochure, Bermuda's leader Dr Ewart Brown informs prospective attendees at the Airports Council International (ACI) meeting that "our tropical retreat will seduce your senses".

"Bermuda is where rich history, diverse cultures and exceptional natural beauty meet. For decades, our shores have delighted, inspired, pampered and rejuvenated thousands of visitors," he adds.

Among the "networking highlights" during the event will be the ACI's own golf tournament, and a gala dinner, the conference website adds.

Last Monday's monthly meeting of the council decided to defer a decision on whether or not to send a council delegation to the Bermuda meeting until next month.

However, critics say participation in the event is likely to be effectively "rubber stamped" at this time.

They point to the fact that council members at
last week's meeting authorised attendance at a separate event to be held in Istanbul next month, which is being organised by a Paris-based group called Les Rencontres.

This conference, which starts on 4 June next, involves a general meeting of the Les Rencontres association and a "public debate on the artistic and cultural life in Istanbul on Saturday 5 June".

A spokeswoman for the council said no councillors have to date signed up for this conference.

She said it was difficult to calculate how much it would cost to send members to the conference, as this depended on travel costs at the time.

But she said councillors are expected to travel economy class, while "all expenses claimed are subject to regulations and budgets set by Fingal County Council".

Labour party councillor Patrick Nulty, who along with a number of other Fingal councillors has repeatedly objected to participation by councillors in such conferences, said he intends to continue to raise the issue at council meetings.

"I think the tone of the brochure speaks for itself. That's why we are arguing that no councillor should be allowed go on this trip. In my view at an absolute minimum, travel outside Europe should be prohibited," he said.

"Any long-haul travel should be fully debated in council meetings, where anyone wanting to go states their case."

"I don't think sending public representatives half way across the world to conferences is the most effective use of scarce resources."