John O'Donoghue: media leaks

JOHN O'Donoghue was given access to Freedom of Information requests about his travel expenses before they were publicly released after he complained that he was "extremely concerned" that details of his previous expenses had been "leaked" to the press.

The secretary general of the Department of Arts, Sport an Tourism and the attorney general received letters of complaint by O'Donoghue after details of his foreign travel expenses first appeared in the Sunday Tribune.

The volume and detail of documentation released decreased dramatically following his letter.

In the original request for documents between 2006 and 2007, hundreds of pages of documents, including original hotel, transport and flight receipts were made public.

However, following O'Dono­ghue's intervention, a second request, which covered a much longer period between 2002 and 2005, yielded just four pages of costs with all specific detail removed.

In the letter, the former Ceann Comhairle accused staff at the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism of "leaking" against him and demanded that in the future all FOI correspondence should be sent to his office "prior to or simultaneously with" its release to the media.

The secretary general of the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism, Con Haugh, subsequently agreed to furnish him with all overseas travel documents that were due to be publicly released, even though he was under no obligation to do so. He took the decision "as a matter of courtesy to a former minister".

O'Donoghue's letter, sent to both the attorney general Paul Gallagher and Con Haugh, came on 7 August; just days after the Sunday Tribune published more details of his overseas travel arrangements.

It concerned a request sent from his private secretary to the Department of the Taoiseach seeking use of the government jet for a six-day period to transport O'Donoghue from Cannes to a constituency event in Kerry and onto the Heineken Cup final in Cardiff.

O'Donoghue wrote: "It has come to my attention that the letter from my former private secretary to Mr Nick Reddy, private secretary to an Taoiseach, was not part of the official FOI release from your department, copies of which were sent to my office.

"I have to say that I am extremely concerned if it proves to be the case that this material was effectively leaked to the media.

"I would appreciate it if you would have the matter examined as a matter of urgency. I would also appreciate it if, in respect of the release of any further information pending under other FOI requests or in the future, that copies would be forwarded to... [my office] as a courtesy prior to, or simultaneously with its release to the media concerned."

The letter came as O'Donoghue was refusing to comment on the expenses controversy, insisting that his position had to put him above controversy and politics.

In a return letter, Con Haugh said he had no reason to believe there was a leak and the correspondence had been released in papers given to the journalist.

The Ceann Comhairle's correspondence was made available to the Sunday Tribune as part of a separate FOI request for documents arising from the controversy.