State paid €127,484 for judges to stay at Ballymaloe House over past decade
March 29 2021 02:30 AM
The State paid €127,484 over the last decade to accommodate judges at the Ballymaloe House Hotel.
Data obtained by former transport minister Shane Ross and released over the weekend showed judges spent 526 nights at the hotel in the period.
They were provided with bed and breakfast, dinner and a packed lunch while attending court sittings in Co Cork.
Ballymaloe has been used as accommodation for travelling judges, who stay to allow superior courts to sit in provincial locations.
Among those to have used the accommodation are High Court Judge Kevin Cross, who incurred three bills in June 2019, costing a total of €3,135.
In 2018, Court of Appeal Judge Seamus Noonan took up residence at Ballymaloe for three five-day sessions at a total cost of €3,760, the Sunday Independent revealed yesterday.
The Courts Service said in a statement it had “always sought and achieved considerably reduced rates for suitable accommodation and board”.
It said it regularly reviews hotels used for judges.
Rates for judges’ hotel stays are sanctioned by the Department of Finance, but they may opt to stay in hotels where prices are above the sanctioned rate. Having superior courts sit in location saves associated travel costs for lawyers, parties to a case, witnesses and gardaí, if they had to come to Dublin. A spokesman for the Courts Service said there was nothing to add.
The hotel is run by the Allen family and is known for its association with high quality food.
Rachel Allen runs a €12,000-per-place cookery programme at the famous Shanagarry complex in east Cork, near the site of the world-renowned hotel and restaurant.
Last night Rory Allen told the Irish Independent judges have been staying at their hotel for many years and suggested the hotel rates were reasonable.
“The judges do stay here,” he said. “We’re not massively expensive. Judges have been coming and saying here for 30 or 40 years. We were slightly surprised to see our name [raised in connection with judges expenses]. Lots of places are very expensive and we’re not that,” he said.
In 2018 and 2020, excess amounts incurred for stays at Ballymaloe were paid by judges directly to the hotel. Documents show €480 was repaid by judges to the Courts Service in 2019 for excess amounts, including €110 by Mr Justice Cross.