THE Irish embassy in London paid more than £23,000 for a people carrier earlier this year because the cost of providing airport transfers had become too expensive.

The vehicle was put into use in January of this year to bring an end to the costly practice of transferring ministers between terminals at Heathrow.

A notorious €472 trip taken by former minister John O'Donoghue from one terminal to another caused massive controversy when it emerged in August of this year.

However, it has since been revealed that many other government ministers took advantage of the same arrangements, including the environment minister, Green TD John Gormley.

The Sunday Tribune contacted all government departments last week to ask whether their ministers had ever taken advantage of so-called 'airport transfers'.

Only a handful responded, with both justice minister Dermot Ahern and defence minister Willie O'Dea saying they had never benefited from such arrangements.

A spokeswoman for minister Eamon Ó Cuív confirmed that he had taken airport transfers in the past.

"As to whether he would consider using an airport transfer in the future, he said that he makes every effort to keep travel costs to a minimum, and that yes, he would consider using an airport transfer if it proved to be the cheapest option available – for example, in a tight transit situation where an overnight would otherwise be required, or if every other alternative would prove more expensive," the spokeswoman said.

The Department of Foreign Affairs had said a review of transport arrangements was carried out last year in an attempt to identify areas for cost saving.

"The embassy... obtained sanction for the purchase of a people carrier (at a cost of £23,697) which has been in use since January of this year, along with the official embassy car, for deliveries and the transport of officials and visiting delegations," it said.

"As a consequence, the embassy has reduced its staff costs, cut down on the use of taxis and has provided for significant long-term savings in government expenditure."

Martin Cullen, since his appointment as Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism has used the Heathrow transfer system three times, in each case to catch connecting flights for return journeys to Dublin.