FORMER Food Minister Ned O'Keeffe (72) issued a public apology after he was handed a seven-month suspended prison sentence for submitting false invoices to claim over €3,700 in Dail mobile-phone expenses.
The former Cork East TD pleaded guilty to five charges involving dates between 2002 and 2009 as he admitted the charges had "blemished...(a) distinguished record of public service".
Judge Leo Malone in Cork District Court fined Mr O'Keeffe €3,500 and imposed a seven-month suspended prison sentence.
The veteran politician has already repaid the entire €3,737.50 involved to the Exchequer.
The former minister - a father-of-five from Ballylough, Mitchelstown, Co Cork - left the court with his son, Ciaran.
In a statement, he apologised for what had happened.
"I would like to issue an unreserved apology to my family, friends and former constituents for my failure to maintain the highest standards," he said.
"Unfortunately, my failure to keep and maintain detailed records of all my expense claims has given rise to my inability to assist the authorities in clarifying their queries in the fullest manner on each of the claims referred to in today's charges.
"I decided to deal with these matters in a frank and forthright manner at the earliest date to avoid further costs to the State."
He pleaded guilty to all five charges, which were brought under Section 26 of the Theft and Fraud Offences Act.
The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) had ruled the matter could be dealt with at district court level - but only if there was a guilty plea.
Judge Malone was told that the defendant co-operated fully with gardai and the offences were down to "sloppiness and gross inattentiveness" in document submission rather than any criminality.
The former Fianna Fail TD was entitled to some mobile phone expenses from the Dail - but required invoices for other expenses entitlements.
These were then claimed using the five fictitious invoices.
Cork District Court was told that false invoices were submitted over the seven-year period from a Dublin motor support firm, a Dungarvan firm and a Fermoy electrical store.
Judge Malone imposed the sentence after noting the early plea, the remorse, the repayment, the personal consequences for Mr O'Keeffe and his previous good behaviour.
The millionaire pig farmer and businessman stepped down as a TD in 2011 having opted not to contest the last General Election.
He had served for 29 years as a FF TD for Cork East, frequently proving a poll-topper in the four-seat constituency.