O'Donoghue incurs €90,000 travel expenses


CEANN COMHAIRLE John O’Donoghue has incurred approximately €90,000 in foreign travel expenses since taking office in June 2007, after the last general election, according to figures he released at Leinster House yesterday.

The release of such figures is an unusual move for the speaker of the Dáil but it comes after months of high-profile media coverage of his expenses during his previous role as minister for arts, aport and tourism.

During a two-day trip to Edinburgh as head of a delegation attending the state opening of the Scottish Parliament on June 29th- 30th, 2007, costs under the heading of “transport” (car or limousine hire) amounted to €1,236.88.

Mr O’Donoghue has previously been criticised for the high cost of car-hire on trips abroad, notably for a fee of €472 paid to drive him from one terminal to another at London’s Heathrow Airport when a free shuttle service was available.

In October 2007, he travelled to Paris with his wife, Kate Ann, to attend various functions as a representative of Ireland, including a meeting with the president of the French National Assembly.

Car-hire for this three-day visit amounted to €1,543.53. The fee for a translation/interpretation service was €941.20. The use of VIP lounges in the airports at Dublin and Paris came to a total of €955.93.

Accommodation at the Hotel Raphael on Avenue Kleber cost €1,157, which was a relatively modest sum compared with some of the hotel bills for Mr O’Donoghue during his period as minister for the arts.

On an official visit to the Czech Republic from December 13th to 16th, 2007, the Ceann Comhairle spent €680.06 under the heading of “gifts”.

Likewise, on a four-day visit to Germany, taking in Berlin and Weimar, in January 2008, the amount spent under the same heading was €688.19.

From March 13th-19th, 2008, Mr O’Donoghue was in the US for the St Patrick’s Day celebrations, visiting Houston, New Orleans and Washington DC. Flights for this trip came to €12,404.70 and car or limousine hire amounted to €4,956.14.

Hotel bills for this three-city visit came to a comparatively modest, by Mr O’Donoghue’s previous standards, €1,533.30.

A visit to the South African city of Cape Town from April 11th-19th, 2008, for the 118th assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, cost a total of €10,511.22 for flights with a hotel bill of €3,092.03, transport costs of €1,598.84 and €575.37 spent on “official entertainment”.

On a bilateral official visit to the French city of Toulouse from May 31st to June 7th, 2008, the Ceann Comhairle incurred expenses, with a total of €1,039.74 under the heading of “gifts”.

He was in Lisbon, Portugal, from June 19th-21st attending a meeting of presidents of parliaments and spending €2,022.64 on flights and €1,098.85 using VIP lounges.

An official visit to Australia from August 28th to September 9th last year cost €8,487.96  for flights, with the “VIP” bill coming to €1,050.93  and “transport” costing €3,594.18.

Accommodation at the Hotel de Vigny during a visit to Paris with Ms O’Donoghue to represent Ireland at various functions from October 3rd-6th last year cost €1,901.

VIP services at the airports in Dublin and Paris came to €1,070.94.

Translation/interpretation services cost €629.36. Unusually, no car-hire costs are listed for this trip.

By far the most modest expenditure was incurred on a trip to Belfast from October 20th-21st, 2008, for meetings with the Northern Ireland Assembly Commission.

The total amount came to €49.23, consisting of €19.88 for “subsistence” and €29.35 for “official entertainment”, a fine example of “Ulster thrift”.

A trip to the US cities of Savannah and Charleston from March 13th-20th this year for the St Patrick’s Day celebrations cost €5,016.11  for flights and €1,655.10 for hotels.