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Junket John still enjoying high life as he mingles with society's elite

JUNKET John has re-emerged on the Cheltenham racecourse. Former minister John O'Donoghue is back among society's elite -- and even spoke to the press after getting down from his high horse.

Asked how he thought the economic downturn could affect the numbers of Irish punters going over, he said: "It's bound to affect it. I understand the numbers from Ireland will probably be down alright. That's almost inevitable but there seems to be a fairly good crowd here."

But it seems that his fat ministerial pension ensured the man dubbed 'Junket John' and 'Johnny Cash' can continue his lavish lifestyle.

In the past O'Donoghue's attendance at Cheltenham hit the headlines when he used €1,400 of taxpayers' money to have a driver sit outside the racecourse for an entire day.

The Kerryman confirmed to the Herald how he was going to be enjoying several days at the Cotswold course as he tried to pick a winner from the race card.

He even tipped Quevega to win the OLGB Mares Hurdle but added how "it's not my kind of price -- it's too short".

"I'm here for a few days anyway and I'll see how I'm going. It's weather dependent and punting dependent," he said.

Among the other political figures at the track were O'Donoghue's former Fianna Fail colleague Charlie McCreevy. But it appears they weren't planning a reunion.

Asked if he knew whether Mr McCreevy was around, he replied: "I don't know. I'll leave them to speak for themselves. I've enough to do to speak for myself."

The former Ceann Comhairle sparked outrage not so long ago due to his reckless spending and excessive use of top-class flights and five-star hotels.

Over the course of two years, he managed to run up an expense bill of nearly €250,000 with his spending dubbed "ridiculous" and "shocking".

The controversy eventually forced him to resign as Ceann Comhairle in October 2009 and he subsequently lost his seat in the 2011 general election.