Former arts, sport and tourism minister John O'Donoghue commandeered the government jet for a six-day odyssey that included returning to Kerry for a constituency event while he was attending the Cannes Film festival.
The cost of this diversion – to attend the opening of new offices for the Fexco money transfer firm in May 2006 – was €11,300. The event in Kilorglin, Co Kerry,was also attended by Taoiseach Brian Cowen, who spoke officially on behalf of the government.
O'Donoghue, accompanied by his wife Kate Ann, returned from the Cannes Film Festival where he was attending the première of The Wind That Shakes The Barley to be there. He then travelled from Kerry to Cardiff for the Heineken Rugby Cup final which Munster won and travelled back to Cannes by government jet. He went from Cannes to London for a Ryder Cup promotional event, before returning to Dublin on 24 May 2006.
The total cost of the six-day trip to the Irish taxpayer was €32,450 and is detailed in a letter sent by O'Donoghue's private secretary Therese O'Connor to assistant private secretary Nick Reddy at the Department of the Taoiseach. O'Connor and Barry Murphy, principal officer of the government's film unit, also accompanied the former minister.
The Sunday Tribune obtained the information under a Freedom of Information request from the Department of Arts, Sports and Tourism. The calculations of the cost are based on the Department of Defence's price of €2,950 per hour of flight. The Cannes trip took three hours, 50 minutes and the flying time for six days was 11 hours.
In total, O'Donoghue ran up a bill of nearly €75,000 on government jet trips to Venice, Stuttgart, London and Cannes. This cost is in addition to the €126,000 in expenses accrued by the former minister, his wife and private secretary disclosed in last week's edition of the Sunday Tribune.
Fine Gael deputy Leo Varadkar this weekend called for an investigation into the use of the government jet by O'Donoghue.
"There has clearly been over-use of the government jet and I think the Comptroller and Auditor General might be the best person to investigate this and see if the jet has been used inappropriately," he said.
A spokesman for the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism told the Sunday Tribune: "The use of the government jet in this case was in accordance with standard government guidelines for ministerial usage. The department's understanding is that there was no commercial flight option available which could facilitate the minister executing his responsibilities as Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism at a series of official engagements during the specified timeframe."
The Sunday Tribune revealed last week that O'Donoghue, now Ceann Comhairle of the Dáil, his wife and private secretary ran up bills of €990 a night and a total bill of almost €5,000 at the Hotel Montfleury in Cannes. Car hire for the trip came to €9,616.
The total accommodation bill for a trip the minister, his wife and private secretary took to India came to €5,474. During a trip to Paris, O'Donoghue and his wife ran up a bill of €1,943.80 in just two nights at the Hotel Le Bristol where rooms cost €900 per night. On an official visit to Los Angeles, the couple ran up €346 for room service and dining at the exclusive Beverly Wilshire Hotel, with breakfast coming in at €64 and drinks on two consecutive nights coming to €95. In July 2006, car hire for the minister in London cost €3,500, while a limousine for use in Berlin to watch the football World Cup cost €2,435.
When asked last week to justify his lavish expenditure, O'Donoghue repeated nine times in an interview that all queries should be addressed to the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism.