O'Rourke defends O'Donoghue over expense claims


FORMER FIANNA Fáil minister Mary O’Rourke has defended Ceann Comhairle John O’Donoghue over his foreign travel and expenses bills when he was minister for arts, sports and tourism between 2002 and 2007.

Speaking on Newstalk’s Lunchtime show, Mrs O’Rourke said she would not be putting a “heavy hand” on him to apologise.

“If I was him I would say that I performed my duties, which he did, in a very good way.”

She added it was her understanding that Mr O’Donoghue was on holidays in the US. “Maybe he feels, in his current position as Ceann Comhairle he doesn’t want to go public and explain things from three or four years ago.”

Scans of the receipts and claims submitted for Mr O’Donoghue’s trips abroad have been posted on the internet by political blogger Gavin Sheridan.

Mr Sheridan this week began to scan the documents onto his site, gavinsblog.com. As of last night, all the documents relating to two trips, to India and to Cheltenham, had been posted. Mr Sheridan said: “As far as I am concerned, this is my data, your data and the taxpayers data. It should be public policy to put all the information on the internet by default.”

New guidelines were introduced by the Department of Finance last month ending the automatic entitlement of Ministers and civil servants to take business class seats on long-haul travel.

The new rules state that Ministers and officials should use premium economy class and should only use business class in limited situations. The guidelines also recommend that as a general rule, public servants and ministers should use non-extravagant hotels; three-star of four-star accommodation rather than “extravagant” five-star hotels.

The guidelines also prohibit trading in premium tickets to allow a spouse or family member accompany the official who is travelling.