Fianna Fáil TD James Lawless has amended his Dáil register of interests for 2022 to include two expenses-paid trips to London and Qatar.
Mr Lawless has notified the Clerk of Dáil Éireann Peter Finnegan that he omitted to include travel and accommodation expenses for two international conferences in his return of interests for last year. Those expenses were covered by the organisers of the conferences.
The first trip was to attend the Doha Forum in Qatar between March 25th and March 28th, 2022.* Mr Lawless stayed at the Sheraton Grand in Doha and also travelled on business class flights to and from the Middle East.
The second overseas trip which he declared was to London where he attended a conference organised by the Tony Blair Institute.
The Tech Policy Accelerator seminar was organised for young political leaders from around the world and was focused on the use of technology for the betterment of public services and governance.
His expenses included return flights to Dublin and hotel accommodation for two nights.
In a note explaining why the two trips were not included in his original return, Mr Lawless stated: “I was unaware that it was necessary to record these on this declaration as they were very much connected to my parliamentary duties, both being policy conferences abroad connected to policy areas that I legislate for and debate on.
“However, following a recent invite to another conference, it was brought to my attention that any conference not funded by the Oireachtas may qualify for such a declaration. So for the avoidance of doubt, I have included these here and will adopt a similar approach in the future.”
The Doha Forum is described as a global platform for dialogue bringing together leaders in policy to discuss challenges facing the world. The theme for last year’s forum was “transforming for a new era”.
Mr Lawless said that among the people who attended and whom he met were: John Kerry, the former US secretary of state; former Northern secretary Peter Mandelson; and former president Mary Robinson.
He said it was a really excellent event which looked at climate change and economic development from a global perspective.
He was not in a position to confirm to The Irish Times the value of the flights or the accommodation at the Sheraton where the event was held.
He had been invited to both events.
He said the conferences he has attended abroad have aligned with his own interests as a TD and as a public representative.
“I had presumed it was squarely in line with my duties as a member as it dealt with areas in which I am involved (as a parliamentarian).”
He said he had amended the register on his own initiative after talking to a TD colleague about the matter.
“I took advice after speaking to another TD who was on a trip and was told that he needed to declare the trip as it was not funded by the Oireachtas.”
*Article amended at 9am on June 7th, 2023