CEANN Comhairle John O'Donoghue and his wife Kate-Ann ran up a travel bill of more than €350,000 in the space of three-and-a-half years, with flights costing over €9,000 each and limousine bills of over €12,000.
Newly-released details of the former minister's junketeering reveal that hundreds of thousands of euros were spent on first-class flights, five-star hotels and chauffeur-driven cars between June 2002 and the end of 2005.
The cost of flights, accommodation, car hire and subsistence came to €174,449 and another €178,680 was spent on travel aboard the government jet.
The final tally of €353,129 is a conservative estimate of the costs of O'Donoghue's travels, as flights, hotels and other bills were frequently paid for by semi-state agencies including Tourism Ireland, Horse Racing Ireland and the Irish Film Board.
In a single year, O'Donoghue travelled abroad 19 times, with his wife Kate-Ann accompanying him on at least eight of those trips.
In 2004, O'Donoghue went twice to the US, once to China, once to Hungary and once to Portugal, along with his annual trip to the Cheltenham racing festival.
On the trip to China in May 2004, two return flights – presumed to have been first-class – for him and his wife Kate-Ann cost the taxpayer €18,195, or €9,097 each.
Another €3,407 was spent on hotel accommodation for the minister, his wife and our civil servants, details of a Freedom of Information (FOI) request have revealed.
Where exactly the minister stayed and what his itinerary was have not been disclosed, however; details of O'Donoghue's travels are heavily redacted in this latest FOI request, which will add to growing calls for a full explanation by the Ceann Comhairle.
O'Donoghue claimed another €270 in subsistence while his wife reclaimed €154 in costs. Costs totalling €437.74 are labelled "miscellaneous", with no further details of the exact nature of the expenditure provided.
O'Donoghue's travels began in January of that year when he flew to Brussels; flights for himself and two civil servants cost €1,317. Costs were low on that trip: car hire cost just €300 and subsistence cost €226.51.
Later that month, the Ceann Comhairle was back in Brussels for an EU committee meeting. Costs on that trip came in at around €1,000.
In February, O'Donoghue travelled to London for the presentation of the Irish World Newspaper Awards, where he ran up a bill of €1,667.69.
Flights were a bargain €279.13, with accommodation costing €539.28 and another €849.58 spent on limousine hire for transport around the English capital.
In March, O'Donoghue and his wife travelled to Cheltenham and London for the annual St Patrick's Day trip to the racing festival in England.
Car hire on that trip cost €1,142 and another €287 was claimed back by the couple in subsistence. Hotel and flights were paid for by either Horse Racing Ireland or Tourism Ireland and have not been made available by either body.
In May, O'Donoghue flew to Brussels by government jet, and in July the minister was off again with his wife in tow, this time to soccer's European Championship final in Portugal. The Irish team was not even playing in the tournament but O'Donoghue went anyway, on flights which ended up costing €2,139.83 each, or €4,279.66 in total.
Car hire for that trip cost €1,159.83 with the couple claiming around €100 in subsistence. The hotel bill for staying in Lisbon appears to have been paid by another organisation outside the department.
In August, O'Donoghue went to the Olympic Games in Greece. His wife accompanied him again, and the hotel bill was not paid by the department. Flights for that trip cost €2,290 for O'Donoghue, although it is unclear who paid for Kate-Ann O'Donoghue to travel to the games.
Other costs on that trip included €387.96 on car hire, more than €500 in subsistence and €1,250.60 in the mysterious 'miscellaneous' category.
In September, John and Kate-Ann O'Donoghue were off again, to visit Denmark and view the launch of a reconstructed Viking Galley Ship.
Who paid for the flights and hotels remains a mystery but car hire on the trip came to €3,096, while the couple claimed €611 in subsistence expenses.
Just a week-and-a-half later, the couple jetted off to Detroit for the Ryder Cup. The only cost to the taxpayer, according to the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism, was the €611 claimed in subsistence.
However, it seems almost certain that the remainder of the bill, including expensive flights to America and hotel accommodation there, was paid for by Tourism Ireland.
The Sunday Tribune tried to get access to ministerial travel paid for by Tourism Ireland between 2002 and 2006, but this newspaper was told that a fee of €1,676 would have to be paid first.
A month after returning from the Ryder Cup, O'Donoghue travelled to Hungary on 13 October for a meeting of EU sports ministers in Budapest.
The cost of his flight was €1,622.73 but, inexplicably, the cost of a flight for his wife was higher, coming in at €1,702.98. Hotel costs for that trip, which also included two officials, came to a grand total of €1,335.64.
Two weeks later, John O'Donoghue was back in the United States for another tourism promotion drive. The only cost to the department for that trip was €1,383.15 for car hire, with the remainder of the bill picked up by one of the semi-state bodies.
By the end of the year, O'Donoghue had gone abroad six more times, to a series of EU meetings and to the memorial services for Ken Bigley and Margaret Hassan, who were killed in Iraq.
On one journey to London for a "World Travel Market", most of the costs were again not paid by the department, but €1,383 was spent on car hire.
In 2005, John O'Donoghue went abroad 11 times, with his wife Kate-Ann accompanying him on at least seven of those trips.
In February, the Ceann Comhairle and his wife went to the USA on a joint Irish Film Board and Tourism Ireland promotion.
Car hire on that trip cost no less than €10,833.71, according to the figures, for shuttling the minister and civil servants around the United States.
Hotel costs for the travelling party of five came to €3,750.90 but the department has failed to give details of where the group stayed and how much rooms cost per night. The transatlantic flights were paid for by either Tourism Ireland or the Irish Film Board.
In March, O'Donoghue and his wife were off to England for St Patrick's Day and their annual jaunt to the Cheltenham racing festival.
Accommodation on that trip for the minister and his wife came to €1,029.57 while car hire – thought to have been booked through Terry Gallagher's firm in London – amounted to €9,164.69.
In April, O'Donoghue went to Liverpool for an annual Horse Racing Ireland Promotion, which happened to coincide with the Grand National at Aintree.
Flights and accommodations were paid for by Horse Racing Ireland, which has said that records of those costs do not exist in an easily available format.
"There may be relevant records across a range of categories and locations but this would require a review of a significant volume of records covering the five years involved and significant time required to identify, locate, collate and copy such information," it said in a letter.
Separately, Kate-Ann O'Donoghue had been appointed to the Bookmaker Appeals Committee, a statutory body set up to adjudicate on Horse Racing Ireland decisions, in December 2000.
For her work there over a three-year period, she was paid €2,591.53, according to details made available to the Sunday Tribune by Horse Racing Ireland.
By April 2005, Kate Ann O'Donoghue was headed to the United States again with her husband, this time for an 'Ireland West Tourism Promotion'.
Details of the cost of flights and hotels are not available for this trip either; the only bill paid by the department was the €588.70 claimed in subsistence by the Ceann Comhairle and his wife.
In May 2005, the country's best-travelled couple headed to France for an Irish Film Board promotion, thought to have coincided with the Cannes Film Festival.
They flew by government jet at a cost of €23,670, while car hire there came to €4,093. The hotel bill on that trip for O'Donoghue, his wife and two departmental officials amounted to €8,177, or more than €2,000 each.
In June 2005, O'Donoghue went to the United States and Newfoundland for another 'arts and tourism promotion'.
Accommodation on that trip cost €2,792, another €3,061 was spent on car hire, and the minister and his wife claimed €744.19 in subsistence. The flights paid for by a semi-state agency and their cost is unavailable.
Between August and September, O'Donoghue went abroad twice – to a funeral service for Lady Beit in London and to an EU meeting in Liverpool.
By the end of September, his more glamorous travel had begun again and he headed off to France, again with his wife. Car hire on that trip cost €2,303.94 with the accommodation bill coming in at €1,943.80.
The following month, John and Kate-Ann O'Donoghue headed off to Australia and New Zealand on another tourism promotion.
The Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism paid out just €1,404 on that trip for car hire and subsistence, with thousands more in hotel and flight costs thought to have been paid by Tourism Ireland.
2005 ended on a conservative note with a trip to London for the World Travel Market. The minister flew by government jet and spent €1,446 on car hire.
In 2003, Minister O'Donoghue jetted away from Ireland 13 times, with his wife accompanying him on at least eight of those trips.
That year began quietly: the couple did not go anywhere until March when they paid their annual visit to Britain for St Patrick's Day and the Cheltenham Festival.
Car hire that year was relatively cheap by O'Donoghue standards, costing only €3,586. Another €1,218 was spent on accommodation and €1,595 on flights.
Later that month, the Ceann Comhairle went to Germany for a holiday roadshow. The only bill paid by the department on that trip was for €1,052 in miscellaneous expenses.
In April, the minister was back in Liverpool with Horse Racing Ireland for its annual promotion coinciding with the Grand National.
Costs for that trip have been listed as €0.00 by the department, with the entire tab picked up by the body responsible for overseeing horse racing in Ireland.
That May, John O'Donoghue was back in the south of France with his wife for the Cannes festival, courtesy of the Irish Film Board and, ultimately, the taxpayer.
Flights for the minister, his wife and three officials came to €2,398.45 and another €7,848 was spent on hotel accommodation.
Later that month, O'Donoghue travelled to a meeting of EU culture ministers in Athens, accompanied by his wife. Flights cost €6,058 including seats for two officials.
On 28 May, the minister made the short trip to Manchester where the Champions League Final was taking place. Costs on that trip, which lasted just a day, came to €1,459, with €263 on flights, €291 on accommodation and €904 on car hire.
In June, O'Donoghue headed to Greece for the torch ceremony of the Special Olympics. Flights for himself and a civil servant cost €3,257 and accommodation came to €952.
Later that month, the minister and his wife headed to the USA again for another Tourism Ireland promotion. The total cost for that trip came to €3,001, according to the departmental figures, although it was actually far higher, with the bill shared by the different government agencies.
In August and September, the couple went to Italy twice, with a layover at one stage in France.
On the first trip in late August, the cost of four flights came to €5,386; on the second trip, car hire alone cost €1,109.
In October 2003, the minister flew to Australia as part of a promotion by Tourism Ireland and Horse Racing Ireland to coincide with the famous Melbourne Cup horse racing event.
Most of the bill was paid by the two semi-state bodies, with the main cost to the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism a €2,201 tab for car hire on stopovers in London and in Singapore.
In November, O'Donoghue was off to London again for the World Travel Market and managed to run up a bill of €2,276 in the space of a couple of days.
Car hire yet again was the most significant cost and the bill for ferrying the minister around in a limousine ended up costing the taxpayer €1,442.
That year's travel ended with a short trip to Brussels for a meeting of culture ministers, with the final tally there just €629.33.
In 2002, the Ceann Comhairle travelled abroad just five times, at least twice in the company of his wife. O'Donoghue had just been made minister at the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism in what was widely perceived as a demotion from his previous post as justice minister, where he was infamous for his "zero tolerance" catchphrase.
His overseas travel got off to a good start with a trip to the World Cup in Korea, where Ireland was competing amid controversy over the early departure of Roy Keane at Saipan.
Flights for that trip cost €11,097.33, or €5,548.66 each for the minister and his wife, with a hotel bill of €4,555.89 also picked up by the taxpayer.
In September, the minister headed off to Birmingham for the Ryder Cup. The only cost to the department for that trip was €125.51 in subsistence, with the rest thought to have been paid for by Tourism Ireland.
A month later, he flew to Paris aboard the government jet to open the Irish College there, and a week later made his first trip as minister to the United States.
Subsistence on that trip for himself and his wife came to €1,171, with most of the bill picked up by Tourism Ireland.
On the last trip of that year, he headed to Brussels and London in November for an EU meeting, on a flight costing €1,059.
Date: 14 June, Destination: Seoul, Event: Korea World Cup, Cost: €11, 441.28 (excl accom)
Date: 26 Sept, Destination: Birmingham Ryder Cup, Cost: €125.51 (excl flights and accom)
Date: 24 Oct, Destination: USA, Event: Tourism promotion, Cost: €1,171.76 (excl accom)
Date: 11 Nov, Destination: Brussels and London, Event: EU Council, Cost: €1,145.25 (excl flights and accom)
Date: 10 March, Destination: Cheltenham and Edinburgh, Event: Horse Racing Ireland promotion and St. Patrick's Day events, Cost: €3,586.51 (excl flights and accom)
Date: 27 March, Destination: Germany, Event: Tourism promotion, Cost: €1,052.16 (excl flights and accom)
Date: 15 May, Destination: France, Event: Irish Film Board and Tourism promotion, Cost: €713.79 (excl flights and accom)
Date: 23 May, Destination: Greece, Event: EU culture ministers' meeting, Cost: €294.67 (excl flights and accom)
Date: 28 May, Destination: Manchester, Event: Champions League final, Cost: €1,459.76
Date: 30 June, Destination: USA, Event: Tourism Ireland promotion, Cost: €3,001.57 (excl accom)
Date: 29 August, Destination: Italy, Event: EU culture ministers' meeting, Cost: €42.77 (excl flights and accom)
Date: 30 Sept, Destination: Italy and France, Events: EU informal ministers meeting, Cost: €1,382.67 (excl flights and accom)
Date: 25 Oct, Destination: Australia, Event: Horse Racing Ireland and Tourism Ireland promotion, Cost: €4,521.01 (excl flights and accom)
Date: 11 Nov, Destination: London, Event: World Travel Market, Cost: €2,276.66 (excluding flights)
Date: 24 Nov, Destination: Brussels, Event: Culture ministers meeting, Cost: €629.33 (excl flights and accom)
Date: 12 Jan, Destination: Brussels, Event: Showcase of Irish Culture, Cost: €526.21 (excl flights and accom)
Date: 26 Jan, Destination: Brussels, Event: EU Committee on Culture, Youth, Media and Sport, Cost: €162.50 (excl flights and accom)
Date: 23 Feb, Destination: London, Event: Irish world newspapers awards, Cost: €1,667.99
Date: 13 March, Destination: Cheltenham & Liverpool, Event: St Patrick's Day, Cost: €1,430.79 (excl flights and accom)
Date: 1 April, Destination: Liverpool, Event: Horse Racing Ireland promotion, Cost: €90.91 (excl flights and accom)
Date: 8 May, Destination: China, Event: Irish Chinese Cultural Programme, Cost: €19,057.74
Date: 1 July, Destination: Portugal, Event: Euro 2004 final, Cost: €5,556.00
Date: 12 Aug, Destination: Greece, Event: Olympic Games, Cost: €4,482.93
Date: 2 Sep, Destination: Denmark, Event: Launch of Viking gallwy ship, Cost: €3,708.50 (excl flights and accom)
Date: 13 Sep, Destination: Detroit, Event: Ryder Cup, Cost: €612.40 (excl flights and accom)
Date: 13 Oct, Destination: Hungary, Event: EU sports ministers' meeting, Cost: €3,342.02
Date: 27 Oct, Destination: USA, Event: Tourism promotion, Cost: €140.50 (excl flights and accom)
Date: 9 Nov, Destination: London, Event: World Travel Market, Cost: €1,383.15 (excl flights and accom)
Date: 15 Nov, Destination: Brussels, Event: EU ministerial meet, Cost: €439.70 (excl accom)
Date: 6 Feb, Destination: USA, Event: Irish Film Board and Tourism Ireland Promotion, Cost: €11,066.95 (excl flights and accom)
Date: 12 March, Destination: London and Cheltenham, Event: Promotion at races, Cost: €10,524.75 (excl flights)
Date: 3 April, Destination: Liverpool, Event: Horse Racing Ireland promotion, Cost: €62.71 (excl flights and accom)
Date: 17 April, Destination: USA, Event: Ireland West tourism promotion, Cost: €588.70 (excl flights and accom)
Date: 27 June, Destination: Newfoundland and USA, Event: Arts and Tourism promotion €744.19
Date: 30 Sep, Destination: France, Event: Tourism promotion, Cost: €2,766.11 (excl flights and accom)
Date: 26 Oct, Destination: Australia & NZ, Event: Tourism promotion, Cost: €1,404.28 (excl flights and accom)
Gulfstream average hourly cost: €7,890