Council spent over €46,000 on mayor’s BMW to ‘ensure professional profile’

December 12th, 2020 11:40 AM

By Siobhan Cronin

Former garda Barry Walsh was the original chauffeur for the 181 BMW while Bantry man Cllr Patrick Gerard Murphy was in the county mayor role. (Photo: Martin Walsh)

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THE controversial county mayor’s car, which was first introduced in 2018, was purchased by Cork County Council for over €46,000.

The car became the source of much debate at the time, but the Council had refused to reveal the price, citing a ‘confidentiality clause.’ 

In a query under the Freedom of Information Act by The Southern Star, Cork County Council has now revealed that the car cost €46,546.50, plus running and maintenance costs.

The brand new BMW 530d (G30) was purchased from BMW Automotive in Santry in Dublin, after a tender process, in February 2018.

Documents released to The Southern Star recently show that the case was made for a specific car for the county mayor after ‘concern raised by current mayor and former mayors regarding health and safety implications’ of the mayor driving him or herself around the county to attend functions ‘some times late at night and at weekends’.

The documents add that the car was needed ‘to ensure the profile of mayor is presented in professional and dignified manner.’ It is further stated that the matter was raised and approved at a Council meeting and provision was made in the 2018 budget.

The mayor’s own car could not be used because of ‘health and safety concerns in relation to the volume of travel required by the mayor over short periods of time, often late at night after a busy day of engagements’.

It was also stated that the purchase of the car, rather than the lease, was the most cost-effective method of sourcing the vehicle because the BMW represented the ‘most appropriate option from the Office of Government Procurement framework range of vehicles, having regard for the expected use and mileages (sic) to be covered’ and that the €46,546 price tag represented ‘a very competitive price offering’ for the car.

A month after the car was purchased, Car Magazine in the UK called the BMW 530d ‘magnificent’ and ‘superior in many ways to the 7-series that inspired it’ with the reviewer adding it was ‘certainly one of the finest day-to-day cars I’ve ever had the good fortune to call mine.’

As well as the price for the car, an additional €1,000 was spent to reserve the number plate 181 C 10000 with Keary’s garage in Cork.

The FOI documents also show that, in 2019 alone, the Council spent €44,595 for ‘driver/hire costs’ from Cronin’s Coaches in Cork, and also spent €2,160 on maintenance, a further €3,112 on fuel, €132 on barrier-free toll bridges and €280 on motor tax.

The idea for a car was first mooted a few years ago by then-mayor, Cllr John Paul O’Shea.  It was prompted by a heavy schedule that saw the North Cork man once officiate at several functions in one day – from Doneraile to Fermoy and down West, before finally launching the Westlodge Hotel Fastnet Rally in Bantry. Hotel management kindly ended John Paul’s epic journey by extending him overnight hospitality.

Subsequently, Cllr Seamus McGrath, also emphasised the need for a driver in the busy post. The call for the county mayor to have a driver finally came to fruition in the final ten weeks of outgoing mayor Cllr Declan Hurley’s tenure in 2018.  

Cllr Patrick Gerard Murphy from Bantry was the first mayor to avail of it.

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