Taoiseach Micheál Martin defended being the only cabinet member of Fianna Fáil to use business class flights, saying: “I work a full day before I get on a plane”.
Martin’s Fianna Fáil cabinet colleagues have all said they do not travel by plane when traveling abroad on state visits.
Health Minister Stephen and Agriculture Minister Charlie McConalogue even traveled economy class to an international exhibition in Dubai which Deputy Green Party Leader Catherine Martin traveled to in a business class seat.
According to a World Bank study, business class flights are responsible for at least three times more carbon emissions than economy class flights.
The Taoiseach said he had worked hard in his role as leader of the country, defending its use of business class flights.
“I’m going to be very direct with you, I work a full day before I catch any plane. I work on the plane and I work when I get off the plane. Full on. That’s what I should do. It’s my obligation and that’s it,” he said.
Mr Martin said that ‘in the fullness of time’ it would be seen that the government ‘has made fundamental changes in terms of climate change’.
Meanwhile, Junior Green Party Minister Malcolm Noonan weighed in behind Catherine Martin, saying he believed the extra personal carbon emissions recorded by his party colleague were worth it because of his tourism portfolio and art.
“If you refer specifically to the tourism and arts portfolio, these are important portfolios from which Ireland benefits enormously in terms of overseas representation.
“I think it is sometimes important that it may be necessary to be able to carry out work while traveling to events,” the longtime environmental activist said in defense of Ms Martin.
Rebel Green Party TD Neasa Hourigan also refused to condemn Ms Martin’s business class jet set while her Cabinet colleagues flew economy class to the same destinations.
“No one is a saint. And I wouldn’t expect anyone to be a saint,” Ms Hourigan said.
“I don’t try to be better than others. I have a car, but I try not to drive too much. People will use transport for their personal needs,” she said.
Green Party leader Eamon Ryan asked if the business class row was a case of ‘do what I preach, not what I do’ by his party, said it shouldn’t be a case of what an individual has done. Rather, he insisted on the responsibility of the airlines,
Everyone had to “take that climate leap”, he said, adding that personalizing planetary issues risked getting “in trouble”.
He added: “I am very happy not to be Minister of Tourism because maybe the calendar when you arrive as Minister of Tourism in a place like Dubai you are literally running from meeting to meeting .”
Told that two Fianna Fáil ministers had traveled economy class to the same Dubai exhibition, Mr Ryan said: ‘What we want to do is change the system so that it saves us all because we have to take measures.
“I met Aer Lingus and Ryanair yesterday. One of the key things we are talking about is how to switch to sustainable fuels so that aviation is part of this change. No sector is out of this. aviation will have to do as much as anybody else. They understand that.
Asked again if the business class flights suggested Green Party hypocrisy, Mr Ryan said: ‘I’m not going to start figuring out exactly who can or can’t do what.
“There are circumstances where I think it’s appropriate that you want to arrive able to work from the start, which is often how it works as a minister.”