John O'Donoghue: expenses

Former Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism John O'Donoghue spent €767 in Paris's Charles de Gaulle airport during a trip to the races, using the VIP business lounge, boarding the aircraft before other passengers and paying for porters to pick up his luggage.

O'Donoghue, his wife Kate Ann and private secretary Therese O'Connor went to Paris for three nights from 29 September to 2 October 2006 during which the minister attended the famous Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe horse race in Longchamps.

A bill was subsequently issued to the department for €767.32, reading "ADP/VIP Lounge Minister O'Dono­ghue/ 25+27/09/06". [ADP stands for Aeroport de Paris]

The stated dates are incorrect but the department confirmed the bill was for the trip.

When asked about the nature of the bill which was sent to the department several months after the Paris visit, a spokeswoman said: "I understand that the service includes a dedicated security check, expedited access to the aircraft and assistance in retrieving luggage, in addition to business facilities.

"It reduces waiting time at the airport prior to departure. As a private area is allocated to the travelling party it provides an opportunity for discussion to take place in a secure environment – generally availed of as an opportunity for members of the diplomatic corps to brief the minister on issues which arise during the duration of a minister's official visit."

Later, on a trip to London in November 2006 for the World Travel Market exhibition, O'Donoghue ran up a bill of €248.77 at the VIP lounge in Heathrow airport.

After arriving at Charles de Gaulle airport on an Aer Lingus flight from Cork, O'Donoghue was greeted by a staff member of the Irish embassy in Paris and a Tourism Ireland official.

Because a porter had been pre-arranged to pick up the luggage, the group headed straight to the private car and a chauffeur which had been specially booked.

The cost of the chauffeur was €1,132 per day – or €3,395.99 in total. The group then booked into the four-star Hotel Napoleon, which overlooks the Arc de Triomphe. The cost of accommodation for the three nights came to €2,244.

O'Donoghue attended a reception at the Irish embassy before dinner at a traditional French restaurant.

The following day he travelled to the Longchamp racecourse and enjoyed lunch and the day's racing before a black-tie event at the Theatre du Merveilleux.

O'Donoghue arose early on Sunday 1 October and attended mass before being driven back to Longchamps. He had the best seats in the house for the Prix de L'Arc de Triomphe, one of the world's most famous races.

That evening he dined with Denis Brosnan and his wife Joan from Horse Racing Ireland. The following morning was free before the journey to Charles de Gaulle for the Aer Lingus flight to Cork.

When asked why VIP facilities at the airport had to be paid for on both legs of the Paris trip the department said: "I understand that, in the normal course, on the inward journey to overseas destinations, ministers are met by embassy officials who brief the ministers on any issues which are likely to arise in the course of their official visits, while on the outward journey, the ministers in turn brief officials on any issues of note that may have arisen during their stay."

Ceann Comhairle O'Dono­ghue has yet to respond to four weeks of revelations in the Sunday Tribune regarding his lavish lifestyle while he was minister for arts, sport and tourism.

He, his wife and private secretary ran up a bill of €126,000 on foreign travel in two years while O'Dono­ghue's use of the government jet cost over €75,000. He also paid a chauffeur €1,400 a day to ferry him around the Cheltenham racecourse for a total of six days while he enjoyed the races.