Nice man, shame on him.
The expenses claims of John O'Donoghue over a two-year period when he was Minister for Arts, Tourism and Sport are an affront to every constituency he represents.
His expenses claims of over €100,000 on "essentials" rival some of the worst excesses ever seen in this country. They include claims for bills run up at hotels that cost €900 a night, limousine hire that totalled over €7,500 in one day, meals of almost $500 in the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Los Angeles for himself and his wife, €80 in tips to "Indians" for moving his wife's luggage in the luxurious Taj Mahal hotel, countless hops in the government Lear Jet to this or that function, including watching Munster in the Heineken cup final in Cardiff.
O'Donoghue is now Ceann Comhairle and a highly popular Oireachtas figure – witty, personable and entertaining.
But the heavily censored expenses claims released under Freedom of Information to the Sunday Tribune reveal him as a man who lived the high life at the taxpayer's expense. Even by the standards of 2006 and 2007, they are lavish in the extreme.
They will serve as an interesting benchmark to TDs who, as a result of recommendations of the Houses of Oireachtas Commission steered through by John O'Donoghue, are having their unvouched expenses cut. Not that anyone would argue against this, but the TDs themselves, who are reportedly fuming over the reductions, will not be happy to learn that they are recommended by a former minister who was never shy of availing of a veritable Fodor's collection of the world's most luxurious hotels across three continents.
For the past two weeks, this government has blitzed the media to soften us up for cuts in social welfare, the minimum wage and tax rises. They plead for solidarity but there can be none as long as ministers defend the right of one of their own to spend – on one St Patrick's Day jolly in London – as much as it takes a minimum wage worker about 207 days to earn. (That's €14,350.74 if you're curious.)