The minister, his wife and €126k expenses

Revealed: John O’Donoghue’s hotels at €900 per night, €7,500 on airport pick-ups and €80 tips
Ken Foxe, Public Affairs Correspondent
Former minister John O’Donoghue and his wife Kate Ann: car hire at the Cannes film festival cost €9,616

former minister John O’Donoghue, his wife Kate Ann, and his private secretary Therese O’Connor ran up a travel bill of over €126,000 in the space of just two years.

Among the expenditure were a series of €900-a-night hotels, €7,591 on “airport pick-ups” during a two-day trip to London, €120 for hat rental, €250 for water taxis and €80 to “Indians for moving the luggage”.

On one luxurious trip to Venice, the former arts minister, his wife and the civil servant ran up hotel bills of €5,834 at the Albergo San Marco, the Hotel Cipriani and the San Clemente Palace. The ministerial entourage travelled to Italy by government jet, where they were collected by a private airport boat and taken to their luxury accommodation.

The water taxi to and from the airport cost €250, while the minister, his wife and O’Connor claimed a further €1,300 in subsistence and expenses.

On another trip to Paris, Kate Ann O’Donoghue’s hotel bill included €56 for a haircut, but this was later paid back as “personal expenses”.

The €56 saved will be scant consolation to the taxpayer when set against the €900 a night the former minister paid out for an “apartment” in the Hotel Le Bristol during two days at the hotel.

On another occasion, O’Donoghue, who is now Ceann Comhairle, stayed in even more expensive accommodation with the nightly room rate at the Hotel Montfleury in Cannes costing €990 a night, and a total bill of almost €5,000. Car hire for that trip, related to the famous film festival in the Mediterranean city came to €9,616, according to the figures released under the Freedom of Information Act.

VIP facilities, limousine hire and hat rental were all paid for at the taxpayer’s expense. A limousine in Berlin to transport O’Donoghue to a World Cup soccer game cost €2,436, while Therese O’Connor’s hat hire for an official engagement cost €120.

The Sunday Tribune was only supplied with the information after discussions with the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism which originally sought €523 for copies of the expense claims. What was released is incomplete, and does not include the cost of flights or the use of the government jet, which would easily double the travel bill.

On one occasion, O’Donoghue had use of the government jet for almost six days in a row as he raced to three different official engagements. The Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism were issued with a list of queries about the expenses but have not made a comment. A spokesman for O’Donoghue said the expenditure was a matter for the department.

Sinn Féin TD Aengus Ó Snodaigh called for an inquiry into the expenses claims and said details of all travel expenses involving John O’Donoghue should now be released in the “public interest”.

Ó Snodaigh said: “Politicians and ministers have to live within their means and some of the expenditure here seems overly extravagant.”

Ceann Comhairle John O’Donoghue has already been the subject of controversy over expenses claims in the past. Three weeks ago, the Sunday Tribune revealed that he, his wife and two civil servants managed to amass a €27,000 travel bill in New York over the course of just four days.

July 26, 2009