THE Ceann Comhairle minister John O'Donoghue, his wife Kate Ann, and O'Donoghue's private secretary ran up travel bills of more than €100,000 on trips overseas during the course of two years.
The taxpayer picked up the tab for Venetian water taxis costing €250, hotels that cost more than €900 a night, hair appointments and hat rentals. "Airport pick-ups" during a two-day trip to London cost €7,591.
On a four-night trip to Venice in 2007, O'Donoghue, then minister for Sport, Arts and Tourism, his wife and his private secretary, Therese O'Connor, ran up hotel bills of €5,834 at the Albergo San Marco, the Hotel Cipriani and the San Clemente Palace, according to documents released under the Freedom of Information Act.
The ministerial entourage, who flew on board the government's Learjet, claimed further expenses of more than €1,300, including €250 on two water-taxi journeys to and from the airport for the Venice Biennale architecture exhibition.
During a trip to Paris, Kate Ann O'Donoghue charged €56 for a haircut but the money was later recouped as "personal expenditure".
It was the only saving made by the taxpayer during that trip to the Hotel Le Bristol in Paris in 2006, where the room rate was €900 a night.
In just two days at the hotel, O'Donoghue – now Ceann Comhairle – and his wife ran up a bill of €1,943.80.
Hotel accommodation during the a trip to the UK cost €1,667, according to a set of documents – largely incomplete – released by the Department of Arts, Sports and Tourism.
VIP facilities for O'Donoghue also proved a consistently costly expense with €767 claimed for the 2006 Paris trip.
Documents released by the department show that even as the O'Donoghues stayed in luxury accommodation, they made further claims for expenses.
On a trip to India during which O'Donoghue, by then Ceann Comhairle, stayed at the famous Taj Mahal luxury hotel, he claimed a further €677 in expenses.
Kate Ann O'Donoghue claimed €302 in expenses while O'Connor claimed for €1,362 in expenses.
O'Connor's claim included a doctor's bill of €45, tropical medicines costing €38.44, a briefcase worth €29 and a further €80 for tips given to hotel porters.
In an email explaining the expenses, she wrote: "I have sent up to you a mighty big claim – which my visa really needs to see some monies.
"Aside from that minor detail, for some reason the receipts requested is for the one thing I don't have receipts for which was the tips I forked out to the Indians for moving the luggage around airports, hotels, etc."
On that trip, the three stayed at a number of different hotels, mounting up a total accommodation bill of €5,474.
On another trip to Los Angeles, the minister and his wife ran up a $492 bill on dining and room service at a luxury room in the Beverly Wilshire Hotel. Breakfast for the couple cost $91 while drinks on two consecutive nights came to $135.
On one occasion, O'Donoghue had use of the government jet for almost six days in a row as he raced to three different official engagements.
On 18 May 2006, O'Donoghue was flown to the Cannes Film Festival in France before heading back to Kerry the following day for a local engagement.
The jet then flew him to Cardiff for the Heineken Cup rugby final involving Munster before taking him back to Cannes.
From there, he then flew to another engagement in London before heading back to Dublin on board a scheduled flight.
The hotel bill for the trip to Cannes alone came to nearly €5,000 – or the equivalent of €990 a night, according to the figures, with the minister staying at the Hotel Montfleury in the southern French city.
Car hire for that trip came to an incredible €9,616, records show.
During another trip to London later that year, hotel costs are not available, but the personal expenses' claims of those involved have been released.
On that trip, O'Connor claimed €120 for hat rental as "per dress code at official function".
Other documents released show expenditure of more than €7,000 on restaurants, hotels and car hire during just over two weeks.
In July 2006, car hire for the minister in London cost more than €3,500 while a limousine for use in Berlin, to watch the football World Cup, cost €2,436.
That same month, O'Donoghue also charged a €257.60 meal and €238.40 for the use of 'VIP suites'.
Hotel costs at the Hotel Domicil in Berlin during the World Cup trip came to €1,816, according to the documents obtained by the Sunday Tribune.
In January of that year, 'VIP facilities' for the minister cost €767.32 while car hire during the Winter Olympics in Turin cost €3,410.
Car hire for a trip to Paris in October cost €3,395 while a limousine during the same trip cost €1,031.
A trip to the UK for St Patrick's Day in 2007 also proved expensive for the taxpayer with the final bill coming in at €14,350.74.
Accommodation for the trip cost €1,755 with a further €1,092 spent on flights. Limousine hire however, proved the most expensive of all, coming in at €8,843.
Use of a VIP lounge and a payment for other VIP facilities at Heathrow Airport ended up costing €1,016.09, according to the figures.
A representative of John O'Donoghue said the Ceann Comhairle would not be commenting on the matter and suggested contacting the Department of Arts, Tourism and Sport instead.
A query was submitted to the Departmental Press Office but no response has been received by the Sunday Tribune.
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