McAleese arriving in Killarney racecourse by helicopter. Three state cars were waiting for her

PRESIDENT Mary McAleese will no longer use the government jet for engagements within Ireland except in "extraordinary circumstances", Air Corps sources said.

McAleese has used the €2,950-an-hour Learjet for at least nine internal flights this year, at an estimated cost to the taxpayer of €60,000.

A decision has now been made that this type of transport will no longer be made available for the President, according to Air Corps sources.

However, there is likely to be more controversy over McAleese's travel arrangements for a Gaelic football match earlier this year.

It has emerged that she flew to Killarney racecourse in Co Kerry for the Munster football final using an Air Corps helicopter that had picked her up in Dublin. On arrival, a cortège of three state cars provided match-day transport for the President and her delegation.

The cortège travelled just 2km from the racecourse to Fitzgerald stadium, waited until the match ended, and then drove President McAleese back to the racecourse.

One onlooker said: "It really was extraordinary. We had a helicopter, three Mercedes cars, a phalanx of garda outriders – all put in place for a journey of little more than a mile.

"This small garda battalion then remained outside the stadium for the duration of the match before whisking her off to the racecourse again. It was a staggering waste of time and money."

Three Ryanair flights operate between Dublin and Kerry each day and could have brought the President to Farranfore. Alternatively, one of the two garda drivers that work fulltime at Áras an Úachtaráin could have made the entire journey to Co Kerry.

Businessman JP McManus flew by helicopter to the same game. However, he landed at Dr Crokes field and simply walked across the road to Fitzgerald stadium.

A local source said: "There was a feeling at the time that President McAleese did not want to be seen arriving by helicopter and that is why they used the racecourse."

The practice of using Air Corps choppers had already caused McAleese difficulty in 2008 when an aircraft was used to bring her to the Connacht football final. The matter was raised in the Dáil by Fine Gael TD Michael Ring, who said it was "outrageous" to use state resources for unofficial business.

The President's travel arrangements have come under increased scrutiny in recent months, despite the fact that all records relating to her are exempt from Freedom of Information legislation.

Last month, the Sunday Tribune revealed that McAleese had used the €2,950-an-hour Learjet to fly to Belfast to open a school and a community centre.

The day after her Belfast trip, the country's four-year recovery plan was announced and the following day, the President gave a speech in which she spoke of understanding the "distress" of Irish people.

At the beginning of November, she made a similar trip to Belfast, using the same jet, to attend a presentation of awards at a choral-singing event.

Air Corps sources said the practice of using the jet for travel within Ireland had become an embarrassment and was unlikely to be repeated. The source said: "As part of a review of travel arrangements being carried out, that type of thing will come to an end, unless there are really extraordinary circumstances."