ENVIRONMENT minister John Gormley used a €735-a-day limousine service on personal visits to the London Eye and a West End show.
Details of a St Patrick's Day visit for the minister show that Gormley had the use of a Mercedes people-carrier for up to 15 hours a day during the trip.
The bill for the vehicle, hired through Cartel Direct limousines and luxury cars, was €3,580, according to documents released by the Department of Foreign Affairs.
According to Gormley's official itinerary, the day of 17 March began with a 10am meeting with Andrew McKinlay, a British MP.
The rest of the day, right up to the time of his departure at 9.50pm from London Heathrow, was marked "private".
Official invoices reveal, however, that a hire car was made available that day for the minister's use for 14 hours, at a cost to the taxpayer of £560.
And according to an email regarding arrangements for the trip sent by his private secretary, Eddie Kiernan, Gormley made a personal visit to the London Eye tourist attraction that day.
Three days earlier, the environment minister also had the use of the limousine service for 15 hours at a cost of £600.
According to an official itinerary of his trip, Gormley's official engagements began that day at 9am, when he departed his hotel, and ended at 4.45pm with "afternoon tea" at the Dorchester Hotel.
Also included in that day's official business was a visit to the Thames flood barrier, which Gormley had requested.
From the records, it appears that the chauffeur-driven car was made available for the entire day as the environment minister made a private visit to a West End show.
On 15 March, the limousine service was again made available to Gormley when he travelled to Twickenham for the Ireland vs England rugby match.
The minister's spokesman would not comment on whether the use of a limousine for personal reasons was justified.
He also declined to comment on whether Gormley planned to refund those parts of the bill which appeared to arise from personal matters.
"I can't deal with your... query because it involves family members in a time-slot marked 'private time'," a statement from the Department of the Environment said.
An email sent from the minister's private secretary, Eddie Kiernan, indicates that Gormley had intended to use public transport at some stage.
"In terms of getting around London, the minister would prefer to use taxis or public transport rather than hire a car," the email said. "Does the embassy have a people-carrier that the minister could use, as this would also be an option?"
According to records from the trip, Gormley's total bill for two rooms at the Dorchester Hotel came to €5,112.
However, around half of that was reimbursed because it was for accommodation for Gormley's two children and another relative.
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