Demand ministerial carbon budget after president flies to Kerry and Clare in government helicopter

An environmental group has called for a ministerial carbon budget after President Michael D. Higgins used a government helicopter to fly to Kerry and Clare on official business.

The President flew in May on official engagements from Baldonnel in Dublin to Kenmare GAA, St Flannan’s College in Ennis and back to Baldonnel, accompanied by six other people.

His total journey time in a government helicopter was two hours and cost the taxpayer almost €8,000 Irish mirror reported.

However, concerns have been raised about the environmental impact of his trip after the government signed off on all-sector carbon emissions reductions in recent weeks.

Friends of the Earth executive director Oisín Coghlan said while politicians may need to fly to get to official appointments more quickly, a ministerial budget would see “prioritizing” more carbon-efficient modes of transport.

“We accept that in the course of their business, elected officials sometimes need to get seats quicker than the rest of us, and that’s part of the job,” he said.

“We would support a proposal for an overall carbon budget for ministerial travel, government travel and official travel, so there’s a limit to the state’s pollution and therefore they prioritize so they can only do that when absolutely necessary,” he said.

Mr Coghlan said Government policy must improve public transport to the point where “no one” has to fly on the island of Ireland.

“We believe that the focus of Government policy and State subsidies should be on improving public transport links across Ireland and not on flights within Ireland. We need to get somewhere where nobody has to fly within Ireland,” he said.

A Greens TD privately said there are likely “lower emissions” options for touring the island.

Fianna Fáil Senator Timmy Dooley, a member of the Dáil Climate Action Committee, said government ministers, particularly the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste, should fly to the island more frequently for government business.

“The helicopter is a fixed price anyway, even if it were up in Baldonnel there would be a cost to the state,” he said.

“Pilots have to keep their flying lessons, so unless they were flying Michael D to Kerry and Clare, they probably wouldn’t be flying around Baldonnel with anyone in the helicopter to keep up their skills,” he said.

He said the pilots’ skills “would drop” if they weren’t using the helicopter for army duties or as an ambulance.

“I think the President and more government ministers should use the service more. Ministers have walked away from it because of the negative stories, but the truth is the cost of running the Air Corps is there,” he said.

A spokesman said the President has arrived with his wife, Sabina Higgins, to open two public parks in Kenmare, Co. Kerry, on Friday May 27.

The next morning he traveled to the Samaritans Clare office in Ennis as part of the 40th anniversary celebrations.

“Later, the President spoke and joined the local community in celebrating Ennis’ success in winning the 2021 Tidy Towns competition,” the spokesman said.

“This was the President’s only helicopter mission since 2018, when the President opened the Forsa Conference in Co Kerry and visited the deceased [cervical cancer campaigner] Emma Mhic Mhathuna.

“Travel arrangements will be made consistent with the President’s engagement program.”

“The Office of the President followed normal protocols for ministerial visits with the Department of the Taoiseach,” the spokesman said.

https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/politics/call-for-ministerial-carbon-budget-after-president-flies-in-government-helicopter-to-kerry-and-clare-41908322.html Demand ministerial carbon budget after president flies to Kerry and Clare in government helicopter

Fry Electronics Team

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