A SINGLE night's accommodation for President Mary McAleese at a suite in an upmarket Italian hotel cost more than €3,100.
The Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny was also put up in a luxury room in the Rome hotel at a cost of €1,200 for a single night, the Sunday Tribune has learned.
The bills were part of more than €21,000 spent by the government on just one night's accommodation at the five-star Grand Hotel De La Minerve for Pope John Paul II's funeral in 2005.
Also part of the entourage was minister Mary Harney and the former taoiseach Bertie Ahern, who ran up their own bumper bills.
The final tally for the night's accommodation, newspapers, a meeting room, and a hairdresser came to a grand total of €21,525.64
The original bill was released in a heavily redacted form as part of a Freedom of Information request regarding overseas travel by Mary Harney. It revealed a deluxe room for Harney had cost €1,200, and another €765 was spent on a room for her private secretary – with all other names blacked out.
Subsequently, a non-censored version of the document was obtained that revealed the extent of spending that night in Rome, along with the identities of those involved.
A large suite was booked for President McAleese, and is listed under the name of her husband Martin, at a cost of €3,198.
The president's office does not comment on matters relating to her foreign travel and all records relating to her costs are supposed to be exempt from Freedom of Information legislation.
Another guest that night was Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny, who was a special guest of the government, and for whom a deluxe room was also booked. He was incorrectly listed as Mrs Enda Kenny on the bill, which came to €1,200. A statement from Fine Gael said: "Enda Kenny, as leader of the opposition, was invited by the president of Ireland to be part of a state delegation visiting Rome to attend the funeral of Pope John Paul II in 2005. He accepted the invitation. He had no involvement in any of the arrangements in relation to the visit."
A junior suite for then-taoiseach Bertie Ahern was also booked and cost €1,650.
The delegation travelled by government jet from Dublin on 7 April 2005 and returned to Ireland the following day, according to logbooks from the Department of Defence.
Rooms were also booked on behalf of a number of government advisers and senior civil servants including Mandy Johnston, Wally Young, Olive Melvin and Dermot McCarthy. Those rooms cost a minimum of €740 for "standard" accommodation for the night and up to €1,200 a night for other government officials.
Such was the size of the bill, civil servants queried many of the costs, believing they had been charged excessively.
The costs had originally been paid by the Irish embassy in Rome through the Department of Foreign Affairs and were subsequently recouped from the individual departments.
The details were obtained as part of research for the political expenses book Snouts in the Trough, which is published later this week by Gill & Macmillan.
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