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Public outrage leads to ban on first-class travel

FAS has banned first class travel for executives and cut the spending on credit cards in the wake of "public outrage" about its overseas travel bills, writes Michael Brennan.

FAS assistant director Christy Cooney said he had issued a directive to all staff yesterday commanding them to fly economy class.

He also told the Public Accounts committee that credit card limits had been reduced from €76,000 to €5,000 -- following the revelation that FAS staff had used them to pay for luxury hotels, pay-per-view films and even "wash and blow drys" for Minister Mary Harney.

The committee heard that the FAS credit card of former director general Rody Molloy was cancelled yesterday.

He had spent €27,000 on it in 2005, €6,000 in 2006 and €118,000 in 2007, mainly to cover the cost of hotels and air flights while on official business.

Mr Cooney said the practice of senior FAS executives booking first class or business class flights went back to the "early 1990s".

Mr Molloy claimed that he was "entitled" to first class flights and that he was also allowed to swap his first class ticket for two business class ones, so that he could bring his wife Noreen with him overseas.

However, Fine Gael TD Jim O'Keeffe said there was no such "entitlement" in the public service".

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