THREE of the controversial trips taken by John O'Donoghue during his time as Ceann Comhairle were timed to coincide with major horse racing events.
The Sunday Tribune has learned that the Ceann Comhairle attended race meetings at both Longchamp and Chantilly during his official trips to France and had a chauffeur-driven car on stand-by outside one of the racecourses.
O'Donoghue and his wife amassed a travel bill of more than €100,000 in flights, hotels, transport costs and subsistence while he was in the non-political office of chairman of Dáil Eireann, travelling abroad on 14 separate occasions.
On their travels, O'Donoghue and his wife visited Hong Kong, South Africa, the US, Australia and half a dozen European cities. The couple stayed at five-star hotels costing more than €620 a night, travelled on flights costing more than €6,200 each and racked up car hire bills of close to €5,000.
During one trip, a chauffeur-driven car was dispatched to Heathrow Airport for five hours where it transported O'Donoghue and his entourage between terminals and the VIP lounge at a cost of £799.
On one three-day trip to Paris to address the parliament there, the couple spent two of the days at Longchamp races with a chauffeur-driven car waiting outside for them at a cost of more than €800, the Sunday Tribune can reveal.
Another trip to France also involved a trip to the races, where O'Donoghue is understood to have attended the meeting at Chantilly.
On yet another trip to London for the "State Opening of Parliament" in December 2008, O'Donoghue made use of the trip to visit Sandown for its winter festival of racing.
The details of his overseas travel were revealed in an FOI request released to the Sunday Tribune at 1pm on Friday at a cost of almost €600.
Two hours later, in a vain attempt to 'dump' the information on the day of the Lisbon polling, the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission released all of the FOI details to the media, hoping to bury the story amid media coverage of the referendum.
During the period in question, O'Donoghue and his wife took advantage of an astonishing 186 internal flights to transport them between Dublin, Kerry and Cork despite having use of a full-time garda driver.
Included in those 186 flights were 44 flights booked on behalf of Kate Ann O'Donoghue to transport her to official functions or to catch connecting flights at Dublin Airport.
The Ceann Comhairle has already been the subject of controversy over the estimated €550,000 in travel bills run up during his time as Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism.
He has been forced to make an official apology on two occasions and is now facing calls for his resignation over the latest revelations, which happened while in the supposedly non-political role of Ceann Comhairle.
Overseas travel for John and Kate Ann O'Donoghue began within weeks of his appointment as chairman of Dáil Eireann when they enjoyed a relatively modest trip to Edinburgh, staying at the £180-a-night Roxburghe Hotel.
The one-night trip to the Scottish capital ended up costing the taxpayer a little less than €2,000 with much of the expense related to a €1,236 bill for official transport.
A few months later, O'Donoghue's travels began in earnest when he visited Paris for a meeting with the president of the French National Assembly.
Flights for that trip cost €804 each while VIP services in the airports at Charles de Gaulle and Dublin ended up costing €957.
While there, the couple stayed at the luxury Hotel Raphael, where rooms cost €577.50 per night and enjoyed a chauffeur-driven car costing €1,543.
The expense didn't end there, however, as the couple dined with three others at the Butte Chaillot restaurant where they ran up a bill of €329.20. Other costs on that trip were €942 for a "translation service" and €243 in subsistence claims.
While there, the Ceann Comhairle even managed to spend two days enjoying the racing in his home from home at Longchamp, where he would have watched the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe.
Records from the trip show that a car was made available for O'Donoghue and his wife for use at Longchamp on 6 and 7 October.
In December, O'Donoghue headed off alone to Prague in the Czech Republic for a meeting with parliamentarians there.
Flights for that trip cost €774 while the Ceann Comhairle spent a further €667 on gifts for the visit, including one gift claim for €125 on whiskey, €98 on pottery and €2.24 on tissue paper.
Another gift claim ran to nearly €450 which included the purchase of luggage tags, business card holders, pendants, clocks, ties and cufflinks.
O'Donoghue's travels in 2008 began with a trip to Germany for another "bilateral visit" to the parliament in Berlin.
Again, the Ceann Comhairle travelled alone, running up a bill of around €1,500 with €561 spent on flights, €688 spent on gifts, and €156 on official entertainment.
One of the gifts is listed as a gavel and base and cost €172 although it is unclear who this was meant for, with the documents simply saying: "A proportion of the gifts purchased were used on this official visit."
In March, O'Donoghue was not – for once – heading off to Cheltenham and instead had to make do with Houston, New Orleans and Washington for the St Patrick's Day festivities. Flights on this trip cost €12,404 between himself and Kate Ann with transport costs on the trip coming in at €4,956.
While in Houston for two nights, the couple stayed at the St Regis Hotel where the room rate was $330 per night and charges of $150 were incurred at the Remington Grill Restaurant.
In New Orleans, the hotel rate at the Omni was even lower at just $190 a night, according to the records with a further $50 charged to room service. Car hire for the trip topped $7,880 with one bill for $2,827 topped off with a gratuity of $565 courtesy of the Irish taxpayer.
While in Houston, O'Donoghue and his wife were dropped off at Reliant Park where a rodeo festival was taking place at the famous stadium though the documents did not make clear whether they had attended.
In April 2008, the Ceann Comhairle and Kate Ann headed to Capetown for the "Inter-Parliamentary Union Conference".
On 11 April, they flew to London Heathrow, arriving at 11.15am where they were met by a driver from Cartel Limousines who collected them and transferred them between terminals and the VIP lounge at a cost of £799.
Their connecting flight to Capetown departed just six hours after arrival at 5.30pm and they were returned to the airport by chauffeur. Each of the airline tickets cost the taxpayer €5,755.
The couple stayed eight nights in South Africa with their hotel bill at the Westin Grand coming in at €3,092.
On their return from Capetown, they were again met by a chauffeur from Cartel Limousines who charged them £470 for a few hours of driving.
Other costs on that trip are listed as €575 for "official entertainment" at the Cape Colony and €699 for travel and subsistence.
In May, O'Donoghue was off to France again for a trip to Paris and Toulouse, which coincided with the racing festival at Chantilly. On arrival in Paris, he stayed at the Hotel Raphael again with the room bill coming to €538 and flights costing a total of €1,371.
According to subsistence claims filed by the Ceann Comhairle, O'Donoghue was at a "conference" between 1 and 2 June in Chantilly, where the French Derby, or Prix du Jockey Club, was taking place.
He then moved on to the less salubrious Crowne Plaza Hotel in Toulouse where the rooms were €195 a night and "official entertainment" at the Bar l'Occitan cost €125.40. Other costs relating to that trip include a further bill for €261 in official entertainment, €218 in subsistence and €1,039 in "gifts" including shoehorns, key chains, clocks, mirrors and cufflinks.
A month later, the O'Donoghues were off to Lisbon for a "conference of Presidents of Parliaments".
This time, indirect flights for the two of them cost €2,022 with a further €560 paid in accommodation costs at the Hotel Tivoli.
An email confirming their booking says: "VIP has been organised for you at Dublin Airport on Thursday 19 June. You are advised to be at the VIP lounge 75 minutes before your flight departure.
"VIP has also been organised in Amsterdam on arrival. VIP has also been organised for you while transiting through London Heathrow, [an embassy official] will meet you on arrival and bring you to the VIP lounge." Incredibly, €326 was spent to have a chauffeur hired to have an official from the embassy travel to Heathrow Airport to escort the O'Donoghues to their €533 VIP lounge.
In August, the Ceann Comhairle enjoyed a summer break on a "bilateral" visit to Hong Kong, Singapore and Australia. Flights for that trip cost a total of €8,487 with a further €553 spent on gifts for dignitaries in the countries visited.
Not all costs for this trip appear to be available with only €1,202 worth of accommodation listed for 7 and 8 September in the Shangri-La hotel in Singapore.
In October 2008, the couple headed to Paris for the presentation of awards at the Prix de L'Entreprise de L'Ane.
By coincidence, the trip coincided with the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, which was being run at Longchamp that weekend, and documents confirm the couple attended it for at least two days of their four-day junket.
Flights for that journey cost €746 each with VIP services at Dublin Airport and Charles de Gaulle adding another €1,070 to the cost. Translation services cost €629 while official entertainment in the form of a lunch in honour of Tourism Ireland set the taxpayer back €705.
During their stay, John and Kate Ann O'Donoghue stayed at the Hotel de Vigny where rooms cost €658 a night. Breakfast came to €29 each while there were further charges made to the bar. Later on in the week, the couple switched to another hotel called the Lutetia where the room rate was €270 per night.
Over the course of the next three months, O'Donoghue made three more visits to London, Edinburgh and Paris for various official functions. The total bill for those trips was small, coming to just €3,747.
On the trip to London, the cost of flights was €705, with further costs of €314 for subsistence and no cost listed for hotel accommodation.
In January 2009, O'Donoghue travelled to Edinburgh where he stayed at the £250-a-night Sheraton Grand Hotel & Spa. The total bill came to £801, which included drinks, £4.50 for laundry and a £1 donation to Unicef.
A trip to Paris in February ended up costing more than €2,000 with flights for €738, VIP facilities €668, a hotel for €540 and €292 in subsistence.
O'Donoghue's junketeering came to a resounding end with a trip to Savannah and Charleston for the St Patrick's Day celebrations. On that seven-day trip, the Ceann Comhairle appears to have travelled alone with his flights costing €5,016 and official entertainment coming in at €370.
Hotel rooms for his stay ended up costing over €1,800, the documents released by the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission show.
And with that, the taxpayer-funded global tour of John and Kate Ann O'Donoghue came to an abrupt halt.
They have not travelled overseas since.
Edinburgh, 29-30 June 2007: €1,728.22
Paris, 6-8 October 2007: €6,778.72
Prague, 13-16 December 2007: €1,840.01
Berlin, 21-25 January 2008: €1,560.56
Houston, New Orleans, Washington, 13-19 March 2008: €19,867.40
Capetown, 11-19 April 2008: €16,467.84
Paris/Toulouse, 31 May – 7 Jun 2008: €3,841.54
Lisbon, 19-21 June 2008: €4,120.23
Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia 28 August – 9 Sep 2008: €15,229.63
Paris, 3-6 October 2008: €6,126.42
Belfast, 20-21 October 2008: €49.23
London, 2-6 December 2008: €1,117.60
Edinburgh, 21-24 January 2009: €1,097.12
Paris, 26-28 February 2009: €2,238.24
Savannah, Charleston, 13-20 March 2009: €7,205.98