THIS is the luxury Bangkok hotel where Mary Harney was holed up on a private holiday as the nation's health system fell apart.
The besieged minister checked in on New Year's Day and left after three nights at the five-star Peninsula hotel, where rooms can cost as much as €434 a night.
Harney arrived home today from her luxury three-week holiday in Thailand where she was accompanied by her husband Brian Geoghegan. The couple flew out of Dublin airport in mid December and spent several days in Hong Kong before, it is believed, meeting up with another couple, travelling around Thailand and arriving in Bangkok and the Peninsula hotel on 1 January.
Its opulent accommodation is a far cry from the hallway trolleys endured by hundreds of patients in Irish hospitals last week – and its prices firmly out of reach of those blindsided by massive VHI hikes.
And as the country experienced a surge in cases of swine flu, Harney enjoyed the trappings of one of Bangkok's finest establishments. Hotel staff confirmed that she checked in under the name Geoghegan.
Famed for its river views from every room, the Peninsula will set you back anywhere from €255 to €434 per night, while an upgrade to its lavish suites will cost between €511 and €3,066 a night. The hotel boasts of its "sensational bathrooms and some of the city's most spacious accommodation".
"Whatever your expectation, we can match it with rooms ranging from deluxe to those with an open balcony, graduating to opulent suites with terraces and outdoor Jacuzzis for the full cityscape panorama.
"We guarantee unrivalled peace and tranquility in exceptional comfort."
Rooms at the Peninsula are designed to the highest possible standard of luxury, offering guests remote-control mood lighting and blinds "to make the most of the kaleidoscope of lights as day turns to night across the Bangkok cityscape".
Further up the extravagant high-rise hotel, the €408-a-night balcony rooms invite guests to take in the panoramic views "and feel the breeze in their hair" or to "create your own personal paradise with a custom-designed dinner a deux overlooking the Chao Phraya river".
It is unclear exactly what type of accommodation the minister enjoyed for her three-night stay but it will contrast with those at home suffering the side effects of a health system in freefall. Yesterday, as she made her way back to Ireland, protestors gathered in anger at record numbers of patients being forced to endure hospital trolleys in overcrowded wards.
In a statement issued by Harney last Thursday, she told VHI subscribers that there were no barriers to switching their policies to other companies.