Union implicated in new slush fund scandal

A total of 31 overseas trips were funded from a controversial multi-million euro “training fund” which was shared by trade union officials and public servants.

The fund, which is currently the subject of a Garda investigation, has been controversially linked to both the SIPTU trade union and the state’s health service executive, the HSE.

While the names of those who participated, in what were claimed to be mostly “study visits”, have not yet been revealed, it has been confirmed that officials from the Department of Finance, the Department of Health, the HSE and unions went on the trips and that spouses accompanied some of those travelling.

One trip was taken each year to New York in 2004, 2005, and 2008, while two were taken in 2006, 2007, and 2009.

In 2005, a trip was made to Australia.

One trip was taken to Los Angeles and another to Boston in 2007 with a further journey to Savannah, Georgia, in 2008.

In 2008, there was a round-the-world trip to Los Angeles, Australia and Hong Kong via England.

There was also shorter trips, including ten trips to London, with others to Birmingham, Oxford, Southampton, Sheffield and Brussels.

A SIPTU official is currently the subject of an internal inquiry. SIPTU said it is not aware of the travel details. Its National Executive Council discussed the matter today but has not yet issued a statement.

It is understood the ostensible purpose of the fund was to assist in the training of porters, caterers and cleaners in health and safety matters. But union officers insisted the Executive that none of the funds had officially entered their accounts and external auditors had confirmed that.

In 2008, it emerged that millions of euro in a similar fund had been spent by the state training agency FAS on sunshine vacations for senior officials in the Dublin government, including the current Minister for Health Mary Harney.

Harney received beauty treatments at taxpayers’ expense during a trip to Florida described as a fact-finding mission to NASA’s base at Cape Canaveral

The scandal over the luxury beachside vacations and the inappropriate use of the government’s private jet by senior public officials helped to bring about the resignation of the then director general of FAS Rody Molloy.

Last week, HSE Chief Executive Brendan Drumm said the new funds had been ‘channelled’ from the Department of Health to SIPTU via the HSE at a rate of a quarter million euro a year since 2002. He said he did not what had happened to the money.


Meanwhile, up to 300 people held a demonstration outside the Mansion House in Dublin where the Taoiseach and large business owners took part in a black-tie dinner party.

The Ibec dinner was dubbed the “bosses’ banquet” by protesters voiced anger at what organiser James O’Toole of the’ Right to Work’ Campaign described as the workers being “left outside like peasants while the masters have their banquet”.

The crowd jeered and booed as Mr Cowen entered the building.

A 24-year-old man was arrested for public order offences after which time the assembled protesters made their way to Pearse Street Garda station chanting “jail the bankers, not the workers”.

The event came as it was confirmed that most of 22 billion euro transferred by the Dublin government to Anglo-Irish Bank over the past year is “gone”.

The bank’s chief executive said the “lion’s share” of the taxpayers’ money paid into the scandal-hit bank, now nationalised, “will not be seen again”.

The revelation led to tensions in the Dublin parliament, where Labour leader Eamon Gilmore called on the Taoiseach Brian Cowen to confirm the statement.

“It is clear that in relation to where shareholders’ funds are not sufficient to meet losses and where the taxpayers have to come in to fill those losses,” Cowen said. “Those are the losses which are taken on by the taxpayer.”


Today, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said it was “remarkable” that so little social upheaval has resulted from the government’s handling of the banking crisis.

It praised government cutbacks and said it should continue to make cuts in public spending. It also advised that “narrowly-targeted support measures for vulnerable [heavily mortgaged] homeowners” could help to manage public anger.

It also encouraged the government to begin the process of selling the hundreds of thousands of homes and properties now in the hands of the state and suggested the move could “kick start” the stalled housing market.

However, the Sinn Fein spokesperson on Finance Arthur Morgan lashed out the Government’s ineptitude in dealing with the crisis.

“The Government seek to unleash a litany of cuts on the poorest, most vulnerable sections of society, but they have simultaneously said good riddance to 22 billion euro of taxpayer’s money on a zombie bank,” he said.

“We have a redundant and inadequate health system where misdiagnosis have become the norm, we have the prospect of the re-introduction of third level fees which will have the effect of undermining the smart economy as education becomes unaffordable and we have nearly half a million people signing on because the government refuse to invest in the economy and inject any sort of stimulus.

“Government expenditure on the banking sector, by the Taoiseach’s own admission, will not yield any returns for the exchequer or the people of this state, whereas investment in the people of this State through job creation, investment in infrastructure and front line services will boost economic growth substantially.

“The 22 billion euro of taxpayer’s money that was put into Anglo is gone, never to be seen again. So too should each and every member of Government and Fianna Fail who have swindled the people of this state.”

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