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We spent €35k last year monitoring elections in Tajikistan, Armenia and Azerbaijan

The current roster of election observers, drawn up in May of last year, includes about 200 people with previous experience of elections or public office.

Azeri women cast their ballot papers at a polling station in Nardaran, 35km north of Baku, Azerbaijan last October.
Azeri women cast their ballot papers at a polling station in Nardaran, 35km north of Baku, Azerbaijan last October.
Image: Sergei Grits/AP/Press Association Images

ELECTION OBSERVERS FROM Ireland took part in missions in countries as diverse as Mali, Nepal and Azerbaijan over the past year and a half, figures from the Department of Foreign Affairs reveal.

The amount spent on each mission varied considerably: €600 was spent on election observation mission to Jordan, for instance, while there was a cost of over €60,000 for observers in Ukraine this year.

A full list of the expenses from the start of last year was released last week by Minister for Overseas Aid Joe Costello.

The current roster of election observers, drawn up in May of last year, includes about 200 people with previous experience of elections or public office.

Members of the roster receive a flat rate grant of €600 annually, and participate on a voluntary basis in a range of missions around the world — generally overseen by either the OSCE or the European Union.

The Department covers all costs for the Irish OSCE observers, while the EU finances its missions.

Costello confirmed that costs for the OSCE missions include “a daily allowance, based on OSCE guidance, to cover the cost of food, accommodation and local transport incurred in country. A return air fare is also provided.”

Seven serving Irish diplomatic staff also took part in observer missions since the start of last year.

This participation is to facilitate the knowledge development and learning of the officials in question.

“The costs incurred by these officials are paid on the same basis as other election observation roster members, though no pre-departure grant is provided.”

The observation missions have been criticised in the past as being akin to junkets, with questions raised over the participation of former politicians.

However, speaking to TheJournal.ie last year, one former observer rejected the claims saying that the majority of participants had an interest in human rights and political processes.

“Some people thought we were milking the system but that was not the case,” the observer said.

We were up until four or five in the morning in small rooms watching people count.

In total, Irish observers have taken part in 23 missions since the start of last year: 17 in 2013 and six this year to date.

The total cost for Irish OSCE and EU missions in 2013 was €182,140.40. The figure so far for 2014 is €89,087.96.

Read: Would you like to become an international elections observer?

Column: Why is the EU observing Bulgaria’s elections this Sunday?

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