A traveling delegation of 24 employees of the Irish state agency was cut to just three. The move followed enquiries into the cost of the delegation made by the Irish Times newspaper.
Enterprise Ireland, however, said this week that the trimming of the delegation was due to budget reviews in the taxpayer-funded agency that have been going on for months.
The original delegation came with a price tag of about euro 100,000, or roughly $100,000.
The cost was made up of first-class airline seats for all 24 members of the delegation fares and the cost of accommodation at a midtown Manhattan hotel.
The sum would probably have gone unnoticed during the boom years of the Celtic Tiger. But that was then and this is now.
The Irish Times, in its report, stated that the trip to New York was “cancelled six days after receipt of a Freedom of Information request from The Irish Times.”
The paper reported that its FOI request for all documentation relating to the trip was received by Enterprise Ireland on Nov. 13.
The conference in New York was slated for Dec. 4-7.
The Times report stated that on Nov. 19 an e-mail was sent out to a number of Enterprise Ireland executives stating that it had been decided to “defer” those elements of the New York conference involving travel from Dublin.
“This decision has been made in the light of the decision by the executive committee to seek economies on a range of budgets within the organization, including travel. The main element of the conference, business strategy review and 2003 planning for the Americas market, will proceed as planned,” the Times reported an internal Enterprise Ireland e-mail as stating.
The contents of the e-mail, together with other documents related to the New York trip, were released by Enterprise Ireland after the FoI request was submitted by the Irish Times “even though they fell outside the scope of the request,” the Dublin daily reported.
Marina Donohue, Enterprise Ireland’s executive vice president Americas, told the Echo that the conference did go ahead in New York, though elements of it were indeed scaled back.
There was no connection between this decision and the Irish Times request for information on the cost of the originally planned delegation, Donohoe indicated.
The decision to scale back was taken well in advance of the conference and was just one of many such decisions affecting budgets, activities and operations across the board, she said.
Donohoe said that for some months Enterprise Ireland had been examining ways in which it could secure economies on a range of internal budgets.
“Given the times we live in this is inevitable,” Donohue said.
“The conference itself was an important one. It examined what we did this past year and was aimed at forming strategies for next year. We achieved a lot during the couple of days.”
Enterprise Ireland, which has 30 offices around the world, several of them in the U.S., works to help Irish companies increase their export sales in major global markets.