Dick Roche: one of the first to defend former Ceann Comhairle John O'Donoghue as 'a modest man'

FOUR journeys overseas by European affairs minister and former environment minister Dick Roche, with a small coterie of officials from his department, cost the taxpayer more than €50,000 in a single year.

The trips, which took place in 2006, involved travel to Dubai, the Far East, New York and Nairobi, according to records from the Department of the Environment.

A trip to Malaysia, Thailand and Japan for the then environment minister, his wife Eleanor and his private secretary cost €23,535.

Flights for Roche and his wife cost €4,836 each on the eight-day Asian trip, according to records released under the Freedom of Information Act.

Two nights of accommodation at the Grand Hyatt in Tokyo for the minister cost around €1,800 in total.

That included the cost of the hotel room, room service, a breakfast at the 'French Kitchen' each morning and guest laundry.

A separate room for the minister's private secretary cost around €450 a night, according to the records.

While in Bangkok, Roche, his wife and the civil servant stayed at the Grand Hyatt Erawan Hotel, where their bill was around €700 for one night's accommodation.

In Kuala Lumpur, the delegation stayed for three nights and the cost of Roche's hotel, according to the records, was €208 per night.

Other bills run up on the St Patrick's Day jolly included €842 for VIP airport facilities and €4,352 for limousine hire.

Mobile phone hire cost €223, printing business cards in Japanese cost €128 and fees for an interpreter totalled €470.

A lunch reception hosted by Roche cost €451, while gifts valued at €648 were presented to dignitaries. Roche also claimed travel and subsistence of €1,338.59 for the trip, the Department of the Environment said.

Roche was one of the first to defend the former Ceann Comhairle, John O'Donoghue, amid the controversy over his overseas travel expenditure.

"John [O'Donoghue] is actually a very modest man and he is in a terrible dilemma, because there is a difficulty if the Ceann Comhairle gets himself embroiled in this type of debate," Roche said at the beginning of August. "We saw what actually ended up happening with the speaker of the House of Commons so I'm sure his advice from his officials is that the department should explain this."

In February of 2006, Roche and three civil servants travelled to the United Arab Emirates, where they stayed at Le Meridien Dubai – Royal, according to details of their itinerary. There they ran up a hotel bill of €6,374 for their four nights in Dubai. Roche's flight cost €3,758.

Other costs listed for the five-day trip included €970 for airport facilities, €396 for transport and a claim of €808 by the minister for "travel and subsistence".

In May, Roche flew to New York to attend the UN Commission for Sustainable Development along with his private secretary and two officials.

The cost of his flight on that trip was €2,537, while his accommodation costs for three nights at the Millennium Hotel are listed as €795, or around €260 a night.

Transport costs for the event were €1,551 while the minister put in a further claim for €673 in subsistence and travel.

In November, Roche headed to Kenya for a climate change conference with his private secretary and two officials. They stayed for five nights.

His hotel bill for accommodation at the luxury Norfolk Hotel in Nairobi was €2,339, or roughly €470 per night.

Roche's flight cost €4,993, while VIP airport facilities came to €401 for the delegation.

Transport costs of €426, malarial medication costing €110 and a travel and subsistence claim of €480 by the minister are listed as the other costs.