Another job, another opportunity to live the high life at the taxpayer's expense.
John O'Donoghue's expenses over the past two years as Ceann Comhairle of the Dáil demonstrate that he did not just consider a five-star lifestyle to be an entitlement of his job, he actually used the job to maintain a five-star lifestyle.
Once again, the flights, the five-star hotels, the limousines, the flights home to Kerry for himself and his wife are all there – all €100,000 of them over two years. But what possible justification could the Ceann Comhairle of Dáil Éireann have to charge the taxpayer for the use of a chauffeur while he attended the two days of horseracing at Longchamps including the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe?
In his apology for spending over €500,000 when he was minister for Arts, Tourism and Sport, John O'Donoghue tried to deflect blame from himself by saying that many of the decisions over where he stayed, what sort of transport he took and other luxurious arrangements associated with trips abroad were taken by civil servants responsible for his itineraries.
Strangely, it seems that the same sort of culture of excess is as endemic among the staff of the office of Ceann Comhairle as it was in the department of arts and tourism. A coincidence indeed.
Who decided that he should attend so many "interparliamentary" or "bilateral" meetings everywhere from Hong Kong to Capetown?
The catalogue of spending from the man who is not just Ceann Comhairle but also chairman of the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission, which is tasked with reforming the expenses of TDs and Senators, is sickening in its excess. But worse still is the way these expenses were published and the self-serving explanation he gives for them.
O'Donoghue argues that he has "led a range of initiatives promoting public interest in our national parliament and in seeking to connect people with politics and the work of politicians at a local and national level through a range of public projects and on the international stage, where, as chairman of Dáil Éireann, he represents the Oireachtas in its relations with other parliamentary institutions."
This excuse for an excuse drags him below any political defence. The massive cost of his luxurious travel arrangements, far from connecting people to the political system, have singlehandedly led to a cynicism and anger that at the moment is barely containable.
As immoral as the expenses themselves were, the way they were released was sneaky and underhand. Having been requested by the Sunday Tribune under the Freedom of Information Act weeks ago, within two hours of being sent to this newspaper, they were published in the Dáil library. The fact that he did this on the day of the Lisbon referendum was a straightforward attempt at media management. The Ceann Comhairle must have hoped that the bigger political story would inevitably drown out his own sorry tale.
Having avoided resignation over his ministerial extravagance, thanks largely to the acceptance by Enda Kenny and Eamon Gilmore of his apology, there is now no excuse for his profligate lifestyle as Ceann Comhairle, much of which happened when it was becoming clear this country was in a hell of an economic mess.
O'Donoghue has lost all credibility in the eyes of the public because of the way he funded a five-star lifestyle on the back of the taxpayer. He has undermined respect in the office of Ceann Comhairle by stooping so low as to use "the Constitutional importance of the Office" as a tactic in justifying his profligacy. He must go.