An airport VIP bill of €16,500, a near €20,000 luxury accommodation bill, and €200 for a harpist – full details of spending on Dáil 100 commemorations

MORE than €930,000 has been spent on commemorations and events for the one hundred year anniversary of the first sitting of Dáil Éireann this year.

The expenditure included €16,500 on VIP services at Dublin Airport, almost €20,000 in accommodation at two of Dublin’s finest hotels, €200 for a harpist, and just over €10,000 for 5,000 Dáil branded hats for the event.

Details of the €934,000 spend were released under FOI with the Oireachtas saying the Dáil anniversary had been one of the key commemorative events in the Decade of Centenaries programme.

As part of the celebrations, they invited speakers and chairpersons from all EU member state parliaments and from the United States.

In total, 31 “overseas parliamentarians” along with 44 support staff travelled to Ireland with €7,708 spent on “local transport costs” for car and bus hire.

An accommodation bill of just under €20,000 was run up at the five-star Westin Hotel (€13,030) and the four-star Davenport Hotel (€6,968), according to the records.

Another €16,567 was paid out for “fast track airport reception” and other VIP facilities at Dublin Airport.

Entertainment costs came to just over €9,000 with €200 spent on a harpist to entertain the visiting politicians and €8,898 on catering for a dinner hosted in Leinster House.

An itinerary for their trip shows how the visitors were taken on a tour of Trinity College to see the Book of Kells and the university’s famous library, and also to the Guinness Storehouse.

Another €228 was spent on “Irish confectionary” with a further €228 paid out for photography costs, the records say.

The Oireachtas said significant costs had been incurred in “dressing the round room” of the Mansion House to make it historically authentic for the centenary events.

Six days of venue rental cost €29,970 with another €30,247 spent on lighting for TV production. There was a further €33,000 spent on production design and €17,152 for “room dressing”.

Furniture hire cost €5,250 while music composition, arranging, and music rights cost just under €11,000.

One thousand bound commemorative booklets were also produced for the event with each of them costing €13.50. Another €3,240 was spent on photography while €1,885 was paid out for design of invitations, running order, and booklets.

A total of €35,000 was spent on Dáil 100 merchandise, which included 15,000 tote bags, 5,000 hats, 15,000 pens, 4,000 commemorative pins, and 10,000 badges.

Catering costs, which included public engagement days, a press gallery dinner, a staff reception, and meals for those working, came to €22,742.

As part of the “public engagement experience” that ran as part of the event, €22,000 was paid out to actors for their part in a theatrical performance of centenary-related events.

Another €1,959 was paid out for a fabric pop-up photo booth, while €10,409 was spent on a photography exhibition.

One of the largest projects was the digitisation of historical records, which was done in conjunction with the National Archives, and cost €37,400.

The Oireachtas said there had also been an estimated cost of €15,000 for historian services but that a final invoice was still awaited.

Extra staff costs came to €40,900, according to records with 96 staff brought in for cleaning, usher, and “meet and greet” duties over the course of the events.

A specially designed website was also set up for the commemorations with history articles, photographs, and historic records made available online.

The design cost for the page was €33,075 with another €152,478 spent on the “build cost”.

The Oireachtas said the commemoration had been staged “to give a full and proper context to the formation of the First Dáil as one of the key events in our history as a state”.

They said: “The programme runs all year and includes events from the Centenary sitting in January to the Dáil na nÓg event in November 2019.”

Costs involved in the fit out of the Mansion House were significant because “as a venue, it required a great deal of professional work and services to create the look and feel appropriate to the historic nature of the Centenary occasion”.

They said arrangements for parliamentarians from other counties were “in keeping with normal hospitality” and that additional staff costs covered ten days of duties for civil servants, cleaners, ushers, service officers and catering”.

A statement said: “Some of the expenditure incurred is for products and services which will be used throughout the year such as … merchandise for students and other visitors to Leinster House.”