Flag week: 38 countries were represented at the two-day conference in Dublin

THE taxpayer paid out €115,000 for luxury hotels, fine dining, official gifts and day excursions for politicians attending a conference on the impact of the world financial crisis.

The bills were run up by the Houses of the Oireachtas as it hosted a European delegation of politicians visiting Dublin to talk about the economic depression.

There were no signs of the depression, however, when it came to running up costs, and five-figure sums were paid out at the capital's best-known hotels, restaurants and other venues.

The two-day event in May 2009 included hotel costs of €32,221 run up for conferencing and a suite of rooms at the Shelbourne hotel in Dublin.

Two separate evenings of entertainment were also laid on for the economic conference of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

The first one at Clontarf Castle, the luxury hotel a few miles from Leinster House, ended up costing €9,841, the Sunday Tribune has learned.

A second one the following day at the Guinness Storehouse proved even more expensive, coming in at €16,460.

Transport costs booked through a firm called Optimum were €10,485, according to records obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.

Other costs included €8,930 on gifts for members of the delegation.

Excursions and day tours – presumably to tourist sites rather than the ghost estates that symbolise the economic crisis here – ended up costing €9,419, according to the records.

Refreshments on those visits were even paid for, and a small bill of €296 for snacks while on the road was also picked up by the taxpayer.

Interpreters for the multinational assortment of politicians cost €11,979, with a further €2,870 paid out for the interpreters' accommodation.

Recording facilities booked through Windmill Lane came to €3,677, while set-up costs for interpreters were €2,870. Taxi fares of €415 and miscellaneous staff costs of €418 were also paid.

The conference, which ran from 27 to 29 May 2009, came as the government considered extending Dáil sittings to introduce legislation on Nama.

The financial-crisis conference was by far the most expensive of five such events hosted by the Houses of the Oireachtas since 2008 at a cost of almost €190,000.

In March 2008, a total of €42,332 was spent on the annual "information technology conference for parliamentarians" that was hosted in Dublin that year.

Dining costs of €9,711 were paid out for the estimated 60 parliamentarians from various EU states who landed in Ireland for the knees-up.

Transport costs of €2,709 were also paid while support for interpreters cost €10,728.18, records from the Houses of the Oireachtas showed.

Gifts worth €3,895 were bought, with €229 spent on photography, while sound/visual support for the conference proceedings cost €14,958.

In December 2008, a conference on "challenges for human resource management" was also held in Dublin at a cost of €26,526.

Hotel bills were paid by delegates but all of their food and drink needs were paid for out of a sum of €10,751 that was spent on entertainment. According to the records, that comprised €6,500 for the official conference dinner and another €4,251 for lunches and refreshments over two days.

Venue hire cost €8,500, with another €5,500 spent on interpreters, technical support and conference material portfolios.

An unnamed guest speaker was paid €900 for giving an address while another €764 was spent on transport costs.

Two smaller conferences were also hosted by the Houses of the Oireachtas in 2008: one for the library and research service and a second for the office of the parliamentary legal adviser.

In July, a dinner for the annual Inter-Parliamentary Research and Information Network cost €3,545 with small bills also paid for drinks and a gift.

In November, a one-day parliamentary lawyer conference cost €2,314 in "dining costs", the only bill incurred during the visit.

The Houses of the Oireachtas said events like this were held on a "rotational basis" among European countries and that it was its turn to host the discussion on the financial crisis.

A statement said: "This was a once-off responsibility and cost following years whereby we had benefited from the learning opportunities provided when other countries' parliaments hosted the conference.

"The event was attended by approximately 250 people representing 38 countries... the event provided an opportunity for parliamentarians and financial experts to share their understanding of the prevailing economic issues."