TRANSPORTING government ministers aboard the government jet over the past four years has cost the taxpayer more than €10.6 million.
Figures from the Department of Defence show that the €7,890-an-hour Gulfstream IV jet has been in use for 1,214 hours since the beginning of 2006.
The government's Learjet – the running costs of which now come in at almost €3,000 an hour – has been in the air for 826 hours at a cost of €1.89 million.
Most of the enormous costs have stemmed from travel aboard the Gulfstream aircraft, where the total bill in the past four years has been €7.349 million.
Certain missions involving long journeys to the other side of the world have cost more than €250,000, according to figures from the Department of Defence.
By far the most expensive journey was a 2,190-minute flight for foreign affairs minister Dermot Ahern to East Timor and Australia in February 2008.
That flight cost the taxpayer €259,150 and involved stop-offs in Dubai, Kuala Lumpur, Darwin, Bahrain and Dili.
The next most expensive flight was a trip by the then-taoiseach Bertie Ahern to Winnipeg, San José and Washington DC in March of 2006. The Gulfstream IV was in the air for 1,420 minutes on that journey at a total cost of €168,000, a calculation of the figures involved has revealed.
In February 2008, health minister Mary Harney travelled to Phoenix and Houston where she attended the Super Bowl.
According to the figures from the Department of Defence, the airplane was in the air for 1,385 minutes at a cost to the taxpayer of €163,891.
Between 2006 and 2008, Harney's travel bill aboard the two government jets came to over €600,000, the figures show.
The overall cost was lower than the €735,000 reported last week by the Sunday Tribune; those figures were inadvertently based on more expensive per-hour flight costs, which began to apply only at the beginning of 2009.
Government jet travel has been slightly curtailed in 2009, but not by much, according to details of the flying missions.
In February 2009, foreign affairs minister Micheál Martin travelled to Cuba and Mexico on a journey that took more than 22 hours.
The cost of keeping the jet flying for 1,355 minutes came to €178,182, based on the new, higher, per-hour flying terms.
Another trip in January 2009 by the same minister, involved 1,030 minutes' flying time to Damascus, Beirut, Abu Dhabi and Dubai. That 17-hour round trip had an estimated final cost of €135,445.
Another enormously expensive mission involved the doomed trip to America by tánaiste Mary Coughlan and defence minister Willie O'Dea in an attempt to save jobs at Dell.
The two ministers flew to Austin in Texas last December on a 20-hour round trip flight that cost €147,916 and ultimately proved a pointless journey.
In April this year, Mary Coughlan again headed off on the Gulfstream IV jet, this time to Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
That trip, which involved 1,130 minutes of flying time, cost €148,595, according to the details of the Ministerial Air Transport Service (MATS).
"The direct and total costs quoted are average costs, which are calculated by taking a number of variables into account. It is not possible to assign an exact cost to any particular mission or minister," the Department of Defence said.
"These figures are kept under review and were updated in 2002, 2005 and 2009. The current estimated hourly costs associated with the Gulfstream IV are a direct cost of €4,050 per hour, and a total cost of €7,890 per hour.
"The current estimated hourly costs associated with the Learjet are a direct cost of €1,270 and a total cost of €2,950 per hour. These two aircraft are the dedicated aircraft for the Ministerial Air Transport Service," said the department.
Feb 2006: Tánaiste Mary Harney – Toronto, Vancouver; 21.1 hours at €7,100 per hour. Total cost: €149,810.
Mar 2006: Then-taoiseach Bertie Ahern – Winnipeg, San José, Washington DC; 23.66 hours at €7,100 per hour. Total cost: €168,033.
July 2006: Foreign affairs minister Dermot Ahern – Khartoum, Addis Ababa, Cairo etc; 20.5 hours at €7,100 per hour. Total cost: €142,710.
Feb 2008: Health minister Mary Harney – Phoenix, Houston; 23 hours at €7,100 per hour. Total cost: €163,891.
Feb 2008: Foreign affairs minister Dermot Ahern – Dubai, Kuala Lumpur, Dili, Bahrain, Australia; 36.5 hours at €7,100 per hour. Total cost: €259,150.
Dec 2008: Tánaiste Mary Coughlan (left) and defence minister Willie O'Dea – Austin Texas; 20.8 hours at €7,100 per hour. Total cost: €147,916.
Jan 2009: Foreign affairs minister Micheál Martin – Damascus, Beirut, Abu Dhabi, Dubai; 17.16 hours at €7,890 per hour. Total cost: €135,445.
Feb 2009: Foreign affairs minister Micheál Martin – Havana, Mexico; 22.58 hours at €7,890 per hour. Total cost: €178,182.
April 2009: Tánaiste and enterprise minister Mary Coughlan – Saudi Arabia, Qatar; 18.83 hours at €7,890 per hour. Total cost: €148,595.