Thirteen government departments have had their budgets for "entertainment" – typically including functions, conferences and launches – increased this year, according to new figures compiled by Fine Gael.

This includes a doubling of the entertainment budget to €200,000 for the Department of Health and Children compared to what was spent last year.

The revelation comes after a week in which health minister Mary Harney was the focus of demonstrations against HSE cuts to respite and other services for people with disabilities.

According to the figures, which are based on an analysis of data contained in the revised government estimates, the total entertainment budgets for departments have effectively increased by almost 75% this year. Fine Gael says this is because the estimated budgets take no account of savings achieved by individual departments in 2009.

As a result, the party says 13 out of 15 government departments are due to register a net increase in their entertainment budgets, with only Education and Transport suffering a reduction this year.

Among the departments with the largest increases in entertainment budgets are Foreign Affairs (up from €691,000 spent last year to €1.114m this year), and Taoiseach Brian Cowen's own department, which has an entertainment budget of €400,000 for 2010, despite the fact that it only spent a total of €111,000 last year.

Meanwhile, the Department of Agriculture has an entertainment budget of €95,000 this year, although it only spent €12,000 in 2009.

Fine Gael says that, overall, government departments have seen their entertainment budgets increase by more than €1m when compared to how much they spent on this area in 2009.

A spokesman for the Department of Health claimed the budget for this year has not been doubled, but that the €200,000 figure represented the same "allocation" to the entertainment budget as in 2009.

"The budget for this [area of spending] was €200,000 in 2009 and has remained the same in 2010; however, only €100,000 was spent from this last year as savings were attained," he said. "This… covers the full cost of official functions, often held in Dublin Castle or Farmleigh, and based around significant health sector events, conferences, or launches."

Fine Gael spokesman on social protection Michael Ring rejected the department's response. "If they spent €100,000 last year, then why not put down €100,000 or less as their budget for this year, rather than a figure of €200,000?" he said. "At a time when every sector of this society is being asked to tighten their belts, we are seeing government departments effectively awarding themselves increased budgets to cover entertainment."