O'Donoghue claims €250,000 expenses in last two years
CEANN COMHAIRLE John O'Donoghue racked up nearly a quarter of a million euro on lavish trips, perks, junkets and expenses in his two years as Ceann Comhairle, it was revealed yesterday.
The fresh revelations come on top of the amazing €550,000 Mr O'Donoghue billed the taxpayer for in travel and accommodation costs during his five years as Minister for Arts, Sports and Tourism.
The Speaker of the Dail -- who eventually apologised for his ministerial lifestyle -- placed his records as Ceann Comhairle in the Dail library late yesterday afternoon, on a feverishly busy day when the public was voting in the second Lisbon Treaty referendum.
The staggering expenses bill came after a week of controversy which left voters reeling over a €1m 'golden handshake' between former FAS boss Rody Molloy and the Government, the free Aer Lingus flight perks awarded to former Anglo chief Sean FitzPatrick and the revelations he has stopped paying interest on his €100m loan.
Yesterday's move by Mr O'Donoghue came sixteen days after he had promised to provide the details of his expenses and costs "as soon as practicable". And this time there was no statement of regret or apology from Mr O'Donoghue, who has a salary of more than €225,000 a year.
The records finally made available yesterday show that he:
- Spent €45,000 on international flights in two years, with the total foreign travel bill coming in at just under €90,000.
- Blew €13,000 on car and limousine hire.
- Paid almost €5,000 for VIP lounge access.
- Enjoyed a luxury Paris hotel at a cost of €633 a night.
- And doled out tips extravagantly -- in one case nearly €200.
- Paid almost €500 for two hotel transfers at Heathrow Airport.
- Claimed over €120,000 in constituency, travel, phone and secretarial allowances.
When all the jet-setting costs and standard day-to-day expenses are taken into account, the bill comes to just under €250,000.
Over the last two years, Mr O'Donoghue also dined out in Michelin-starred restaurants, such as Butte Chaillot in Paris, and was accompanied on a number of trips by his wife, Kate Ann.
He also spent €11,869 on advertising his clinics in Kerry newspapers, even though he declares his office is "above politics".
Mr O'Donoghue also splashed the cash on gifts for dignitaries -- including 2006 Midleton whiskey costing €135 and €882 on presents from the House of Ireland shop.
On his St Patrick's Day junket last year to Houston, New Orleans and Washington, Mr O'Donoghue spent €4,956 on limo hire alone.
Mr O'Donoghue's level of travel last night appeared comfortably in excess of that by other Cinn Comhairli, although direct comparisons were not available.
The Houses of the Oireachtas Commission -- left to explain the trips last night -- could only say that invitations had been vetted in advance by a committee chaired by the Clerk of the Dail. But it also emerged that the Ceann Comhairle himself chaired meetings of an Interparliamentary Association, which includes members of both the Dail and Seanad, where the details were planned.
It also appeared that accountancy sign-off on the final bills was dumped on the lap of a lowly civil service officer. There was no intermediate stage of cost/benefit analysis for the scale of arrangements and what could be produced for Ireland -- besides goodwill.
In a statement from the Oireachtas, a spokesman repeated earlier claims from Mr O'Donoghue that his office should carry the same privileges as a government minister.
"Similarly, items of expenditure including use of executive facilities or security are the customary courtesies that Ireland provides whenever it hosts an incoming parliamentary delegation," the statement said.
"When the Ceann Comhairle travels abroad, it is normal that arrangements made are on the recommendation of the host, giving due regard to criteria such as security and proximity to the venues or to accommodate meetings."