Health minister Mary Harney accrued a bill of €735,000 for using the government jet over a period of just two-and-a-half years, putting her on the top of the ministerial expenses league, a Sunday Tribune investigation has revealed.
The former tánaiste made use of the government jet on 12 occasions between February 2006 and September 2008.
During this period she spent €65,000 on hotels and limousine hire according to a heavily edited and delayed Freedom of Information request from the Department of Health.
She travelled to Arizona in February 2006 on an official visit, accompanied by her husband Brian Geoghegan and six civil servants, and attended the Super Bowl. Car hire for the trip cost €10,208 while accommodation for Harney and her husband cost the taxpayer €2,285.
Transport minister Noel Dempsey accumulated a bill of €70,000 during a 2007 St Patrick's Day trip to the US. Dempsey travelled to Houston, San Antonio and San Francisco with his wife Bernadette and three civil servants.
First and business class flights for the minister and his wife cost €8,139 each, while limousine hire for the duration of the 10-day trip came to almost €20,000.
Green Party leader John Gormley had a chauffeur-driven car drive five hours from London to collect him from the Holyhead ferry, which he had taken in an environmentally friendly effort, and ran up a bill of €2,200 for two-day hire. The environment minister has also confirmed he made use of the by now notorious "airport transfers", where a car was dispatched from central London to pick him up at one terminal in Heathrow airport to drop him off at another one.
On a separate trip to London, in March last year, Gormley and his family travelled to England by ferry and rail, but then used a chauffeur-driven car for five days at a cost of £2,726.
Meanwhile, a single night's accommodation for former taoiseach Bertie Ahern at the exclusive Dorchester Hotel in London ended up costing the Irish taxpayer €2,400, while another one-night stay in Brussels cost €3,000.
On one controversial trade mission to India, Ahern and other officials from the Department of the Taoiseach dined at a banquet at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, which came to €28,704. Also on that trip were John O'Don-oghue, then minister for arts, sport and tourism, Mary Hanafin, who was education minister at the time, TD Donie Cassidy and about two dozen other people.
Ahern also charged taxpayers for a series of pay-per-view movies while he stayed in hotels in London, the USA and Finland.
Former Progressive Democrat TD Tom Parlon, now the boss of the Construction Industry Federation, claimed over €295,000 in expenses during the four-and-a-half years he was a junior minister at the Office of Public Works. Parlon claimed more than €82,000 in travel and subsistence during 2006 alone.
This compares to a total of just over €28,500 which his two successors at the OPW – Noel Ahern and Martin Mansergh – claimed between them for the whole of 2008.