Government departments have spent around €4m on overnight travel expenses for staff who moved out of Dublin under the government's ill-fated decentralisation programme, but who have to travel back and forth for meetings in the capital.

Total travel costs for eight government departments for sending staff back to Dublin to attend meetings over the last 30 months came just short of €2m, Labour Party finance spokeswoman Joan Burton was told.

Given that a further seven departments did not provide the figures, including the larger departments such as Education, Social Protection, Transport, Justice and Foreign Affairs, the figure should at least double to €4m.

Agriculture minister Brendan Smith racked up the highest travel costs of over €556,000 shunting staff from Castlebar, Cavan, Clonakilty, Portlaoise and Wexford to Dublin for meetings.

But the smaller Department of Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs spent €194,970 sending staff from its interim headquarters in Tubbercurry, Co Sligo to Dublin and back again.

Junior minister in charge of Irish aid Peter Power spent over €350,000 funding staff travelling up and down from its new base in Limerick to Dublin.

There was considerable resistance among Irish aid workers to the move to Limerick, with staff arguing that most of their work involved meetings in Dublin and that travelling up and down wasted time and money. Many senior aid workers quit the department in protest.

To date, around 3,000 of the 10,200 public servants scheduled to move have completed the relocation from the capital since the plan was announced seven years ago.