Frank and Ethelle Fahey: flights

Former Fianna Fáil junior minister Frank Fahey and his wife Ethelle ran up airline bills of more than €65,000 in just 30 months, according to figures just released. More than 40 flights taken by the Faheys during that period involved internal journeys between their home in Galway and Dublin. However, the Department of Communications was unable to release full details of the minister's expenditure as it has lost an unknown number of documents.

The details it did release under the Freedom Of Information Act showed that the minister, his wife, and his private secretary ran up an airline bill of €93,283 during his time in the department. According to the records, Ethelle Fahey ran up an airline bill of €11,305, which included eight one-way trips between Galway and the capital.

Her husband's personal air travel bill came to €55,085, with more than 30 flights to Galway paid for by the department. Throughout the period, Fahey would have had the use of a garda driver and car on a 24-hour basis. Seventy one separate flights were clocked up by Fahey, according to the records.

Of Fahey's foreign flights, the most expensive was on St Patrick's Day 2000 when almost €9,000 was spent flying him to the United States, with stop-offs in San Francisco, Minneapolis and Los Angeles.

Later that year, the minister again travelled to the US, stopping off in Milwaukee on a flight that cost €5,500.

The following March, Fahey and his wife travelled to South Africa for St Patrick's Day, with flights costing up to €4,504 each.

The couple travelled to Dallas, Houston and Miami in April of that year, with their flight bill coming to almost €13,000.

According to a senior civil servant, the loss or destruction of other documents – detailing hotel costs and so on – was "genuinely regretted".

The department said it had taken a number of steps to track down the receipts, including interviews with staff and retrieval of physical records.

A search of electronic databases and records yielded a small number of records but dozens of others could not be located.

The department said: "It should also be noted that [we] did not have an electronic system for recording travel and subsistence expenditure at that stage and the financial management system in use at that time has since been replaced.

"In its search for the records, this department has tried to use all practical, possible means for finding them.

"In view of the comprehensive but unsuccessful searches described… [we] find that… the records sought do not exist or cannot be found. We genuinely regret this."

Other costs released show Fahey claimed about €13,000 in general expenses between 2000 and 2002.

A single sheet of expense claims detailing dinners at L'Écrivain restaurant and overnight stays in several four-star hotels was also released.