O'Donoghue's use of jet within official guidelines

 

THE USE of the Government jet over six consecutive days by former minister for arts, sport and tourism John O’Donoghue was in accordance with standard Government guidelines for ministerial usage, the department said yesterday.

Between May 18th and May 24th, 2006, Mr O’Donoghue, who is now Ceann Comhairle, used the jet to travel for six journeys between Dublin, Cannes, Kerry, Cardiff, Cannes (for a second time), Northolt (London) and Dublin, the Sunday Tribune reported yesterday.

The department yesterday confirmed the itinerary for Mr O’Donoghue, who was accompanied by his wife, Kate Ann O’Donoghue, Barry Murphy, the principal officer in the department’s film unit, and his departmental private secretary Therese O’Connor.

However, it declined to comment further on the report – and its estimate that the overall cost came to more than €32,400 – other than to refer to an earlier statement that said there was no commercial flight option available which could facilitate the series of engagements he had in 2006.

The latest disclosure comes a week after the same newspaper disclosed records received under a Freedom of Information request that showed Mr O’Donoghue ran up expenses of more than €126,000 during trips abroad when minister for arts.

In relation to the 2006 flights, a letter, sent by the private secretary Ms O’Connor to the Department of An Taoiseach, outlined the itinerary and the reasons for the request.

It involved a flight from Dublin to Cannes on May 18th for the premiere of Ken Loach’s film The Wind that Shook the Barley. The following day, the party flew from Cannes to his home county of Kerry to allow him to attend a series of events there with then minister for finance Brian Cowen, including the opening of new facilities for finance company Fexco.

The letter sent to the Department of an Taoiseach said that Mr O’Donoghue was scheduled to participate in the events in Kerry “for some considerable time and following two previously cancelled dates”.

The following day Mr O’Donoghue, his wife and the two officials flew by jet to Cardiff for the Heineken Cup final and then flew back to Cannes. The final leg of the journey was a flight from Cannes to Northolt.

Mr O’Donoghue’s spokesman was unavailable for comment.