Members of Northern Ireland's Legislative Assembly (MLAs) have been travelling throughout the world at the taxpayer’s expense. Some MLAs have taken a number of trips, including a visit to Washington DC from 15-18 March last year, which coincided with St. Patrick's Day. It would be expected that on such a trip, meetings with those of influence would be organised at every attempt, however this is not true when considering Northern Ireland’s political elite.
After a Freedom of Information request (below), it was discovered that three MLAs, William Hay, Danny Kennedy, and Naomi Long (who is now an MP) travelled to Washington DC at a cost of £10,739.45. They were accompanied by two staff members and travelled in the knowledge this was purely a social networking exercise. Their programme was packed full of social events, including breakfast with senators and they attended receptions held at both the Irish Embassy and the White House. During the trip not one formal meeting took place between politicians and their American counterparts.
All members of this delegation flew Business Class with Continental Airlines at a cost of £7,442.30. Hotels for two nights cost £2,671.15, and even items including loss on currency exchange and souvenirs were claimed for.
This trip was clearly a waste of our money, and cannot be justified. Taxpayers are fed up with politicians behaving in this manner, and at a time of spending restraint, these MLAs should hang their heads in shame.
FoI Response: Expenses
FoI Response: Agenda