John O'Donoghue: the former tourism minister had a full-time garda driver at his disposal yet he ran up a significant bill for travel around Ireland

CEANN Comhairle John O'Donoghue took an incredible 73 internal flights in a single year from Dublin to either Kerry or Cork despite having a full-time garda driver available to him.

The scale of the then tourism minister's travel in 2006 dwarfed that of other government ministers, according to a detailed list of flights which was made available to Green Party TD Ciarán Cuffe two years ago.

No other minister made more than a handful of internal flights that year, the official Dáil record shows.

During 2006, O'Donoghue made 73 flights – usually from Dublin to Kerry or back – all at the Irish taxpayers' expense.

The cost of providing this service to the minister is not clear but it has been reliably estimated as being close to €15,000, on the assumption that many, if not all, of the flights were booked at relatively late notice.

The minister's overseas travel in 2006 also proved very expensive, with trips to India and New York included in his itinerary that year.

However, O'Donoghue's internal travel is also certain to raise questions, considering he had exclusive use of a €100,000 a year full-time garda driver.

In January 2006, he made a total of four flights, all between Dublin and Kerry.

During February, March, April, and May, he caught a scheduled internal flight on five occasions in each month.

As the Dáil wound down for the summer, O'Donoghue continued to fly between Dublin and Kerry, taking a plane in June (eight times), July (seven), August (four), and September (10).

According to the official record of parliamentary proceedings for that year, the Dáil never sat between 6 July and 27 September, though a number of cabinet meetings would have taken place.

By October, O'Donoghue was now making habitual use of internal flights and ran up a significant travel bill in October (nine flights), November (seven) and December (four).

Pressure was mounting last week on the Ceann Comhairle to provide an explanation for his overseas spending, the scale of which was first revealed by the Sunday Tribune.

During the course of two years, O'Donoghue, his wife Kate Ann and his private secretary Therese O'Connor ran up a travel bill of €126,000, not including the use of the government jet.

Fine Gael senator Paschal Donohoe followed Sinn Féin's Aengus Ó Snodaigh in openly demanding an explanation for the spending.

Writing on his website, Donohoe called O'Donoghue "a waster" and said: "I can't understand why he is still in his job and why he hasn't commented on a month of revelations."

His party colleague George Lee has also added his voice to the growing scandal saying the level of expenditure involving the Ceann Comhairle was "outrageous".