Harney defends FÁS trip expenses

Friday 28 November 2008 22.43
Mary Harney - Controversy over US trip
Mary Harney - Controversy over US trip

Health Minister Mary Harney has defended her use of expenses while on a FÁS trip to the US.

Minister Harney said she led the trip as Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise and was 'not on holiday'.

She said she did not use tax-payers money for personal grooming, and any official expenses she claimed were on the basis of advice.

Minister Harney said she fully supported the Public Accounts Committe investigation and when she was given information on the issue anonymously, she forwarded it to the gardaí.

She said the board had acted 'honourably and thoroughly'.

Asked whether the use of the Government jet for the trip was appropriate, she said that decision was made by the Taoiseach.

She acknowledged that she met a relative while in the US for an hour, but she said the entire programme was organised by FÁS and that relative had travelled a considerable distance to meet her.

Tánaiste and Enterprise Minister Mary Coughlan has said the board of FÁS have assured her that action has been taken in relation to the expenses controversy.

Minister Coughlan met six board members earlier today after returning from a trade mission in Dubai.

Labour Party leader Eamon Gilmore has claimed that there is a cosy circle involving FÁS and senior ministers who provide its funding.

He also told the party's conference that it was time for the Health Minister to step down because of her performance.

Elsewhere, Minister Mary Hanafin has defended visits by herself and four other ministers to Florida in less than three years.

The Minister said the Kennnedy Space Centre Programme they visited was only open to Ireland and should not be lost.

Speaking to RTÉ News, she said that she had travelled as Minister for Education and Science to the Kennedy Space Centre to present certificates to Irish graduates who returned to Ireland to do doctorates and masters degrees in science.

She said: 'This is the future of this country. Any way we can get to encourage science and to do it at the very top level, I think that's a great opportunity for this country.'