Simon Coveney’s department was shocked by an offer of €20,000 for the Beaufort Cup gala dinner to be hosted by the Minister

THE Ministry of Defense was shocked after being told a gala dinner hosted by Minister Simon Coveney would cost €20,000.

The ministry told the defense forces that there was no way they could exhaust this budget and that there was an official government cap of €64 per guest for such events.

In emails, the department was told by Armed Forces Headquarters that the cost of the Beaufort Cup gala dinner – part of an international sailing regatta in mid-July – was “not negligible” and a formal request was made for a budget of €20,000.

Officials responded that this is “above what the minister is allowed to spend when hosting an event”.

The department said the maximum they could reach is €64 per person, which must include VAT, service charges and any room costs, and asked for more details on why the estimate is so high.

An email reads: “We have been advised not to exceed the limit of €64 per person. Can you provide a breakdown of all the costs for the event for us to give to the Secretary General and the Minister? [Coveney] as much information as possible on how the estimated cost was calculated?”

Based on a similar event in 2018, the department had expected costs of between 8,500 and 10,000 euros.

The Defense Forces said the estimate was calculated based on 180 participants having a five-course meal at €40 per person, for a total of €7,200.

A string quartet could be booked for 920 euros, a further 975 euros for a Prosecco reception and 1,215 euros budget for wine.

The defense forces also wanted to buy twenty bottles of port wine for €300, while €1,080 would be spent on renting chairs with ivory-colored seat pads.

Also included in the budget was an estimate of around €1,400 for the hire of linen, wine glasses, champagne flutes, crockery, ice cream spoons and port wine glasses.

Defense forces said vintage teacups and saucers would cost €150 to hire, while champagne saucers would add another €114 to the bill.

A flower arrangement for the event, to be held at the Naval Base at Haulbowline in Cork, would cost €525 bringing the total estimated bill to €19,180.

A few days later, the Defense Forces came back with a slimmed-down budget, demanding €12,160 with several items including the string quartet that had been cut out.

The event was further reduced to accommodate 110 guests instead of the original estimate of 180.

On July 11, the department wrote to military colleagues: “I am only sending confirmation that the Minister [Simon Coveney] has officially approved expenditure of €7,040 to host the 2022 Beaufort Cup Gala Dinner.”

Internal emails also explain how the date of the dinner was pushed back to ensure Secretary Coveney’s attendance.

A message said: “The Navy can confirm that the Beaufort Cup meal may be changed to Thursday to accommodate Ministerial availability.”

A military spokesman said: “The Beaufort Cup invites sailing teams representing their associated uniformed services to compete in a mix of challenging offshore and coastal regattas for five days and is in line with the Defense Forces policy on adventure and confidence training.

“The Beaufort Cup Gala was organized by the Irish Naval Service and paid for by Defense Forces funds in accordance with DPER [Department of Public Expenditure] Entertainment Circular 25/2000.”

A spokesman for the department also confirmed that all spending was within state entertainment guidelines. Simon Coveney’s department was shocked by an offer of €20,000 for the Beaufort Cup gala dinner to be hosted by the Minister

Fry Electronics Team

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