John O'Donoghue with his wife Kate-Ann at Cheltenham in 2004

TRYING to determine the real scale of extravagant spending on overseas travel by John O'Donoghue and his wife Kate-Ann has been an expensive, time-consuming and often fruitless exercise.

Records of the massive expenditure, which is already well in excess of €550,000, lie not just with O'Donoghue's former Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism but at least three other agencies under its umbrella: Tourism Ireland, Horse Racing Ireland and the Irish Film Board.

The Sunday Tribune has sought access to the spending record at all four bodies but the only one made available so far has been the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism. This resulted from a payment of €523.75 by this newspaper, which was separated into two requests.

The first Freedom of Information (FOI) request spanned the years 2006 and 2007 and yielded hundreds of pages of documents detailing flights, hotels, transport costs, travel itineraries and emails sent within the department.

The second FOI request [published today], which was written in exactly the same terms, yielded only FOUR pages of information, which came in the form of a tabulated, heavily-redacted response detailing more than €174,447 in spending, which excludes the cost of the government jet.

In this second FOI, the names of hotels have now been omitted; details of what class the O'Donoghues flew in are not available; the name of the car hire company that was used is not included; and the O'Donoghues' day-to-day itineraries are missing.

Also conspicuous by their absence are dozens of individual bills for flights, hotels and other expenditure paid for – on behalf of the taxpayer – by Tourism Ireland, the Irish Film Board and Horse Racing Ireland.

An attempt to get access to ministerial travel expenditure at Tourism Ireland during the period 2002 to 2005 would have cost more than €1,600.

Similarly, there is a huge premium on records at the Irish Film Board: for an examination of spending in that body filed last year, the quoted price was also a four-figure sum.

At Horse Racing Ireland, the Sunday Tribune has not even been offered an estimate of how much it will cost to provide details of expenditure on O'Donoghue and his wife.

"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 documentation," said a letter from the agency. "You may wish to vary your application and please feel free to revert to... [us] in this regard."