THE €7,890-an-hour government jet was used by a number of senior civil servants from the Department of Finance so they could fly to Brussels at a time of intense speculation that Ireland was signing up for an economic bailout.

The flight was considered highly unusual by the Air Corps, as the jets are usually only used for the transport of President Mary McAleese, government ministers, or on rare occasions for visiting VIPs.

The Gulfstream IV was requisitioned by the Department of Finance on 14 November for a flight to the Belgian capital for critical meetings on measures to be taken to prevent the collapse of Ireland's banking system.

The plane returned to Dublin the following day after 180 minutes in the air, and a bill estimated at almost €24,000, according to Department of Defence figures.

The Department of Finance declined to identify the civil servants who had travelled aboard the Gulfstream for the meetings, or to say why the government jet was required instead of commercial flights.

According to the Department of Defence jet log, a specific request
had been made by finance minister Brian Lenihan for the use of the jet.

All use of the Gulfstream IV must also be approved by the Department of the Taoiseach, and the department involved is required to give reasons why ordinary commercial flights could not be used for the journey.