Apology at last from ‘embarrassed’ O’Donoghue

CEANN Comhairle John O’Donoghue has said he was embarrassed by the cost of his travels during his tenure as minister sport and tourism.

Making his second statement this week Mr O’Donoghue finally apologised to those who were paying his bills — the taxpayers.

He said he did not know the price being paid for his overseas travel while he was in office.

“When I read the detail in the past weeks I was embarrassed that such costs were associated with some of the arrangements made on my behalf. I sincerely regret that, although on official duty, such considerable costs were incurred,” he said.

Throughout the summer the Kerry South representative refused to comment as details of lavish expenditure on his transport and accommodation dripped out through the print and online media.

It included trips to Berlin, London, Cannes and India.

Before taking his seat at the start of the new Dáil term Mr O’Donoghue said it was a fact of life that some ministries clocked up greater costs than others.

And he claimed all bills were in accordance with the guidelines laid down by the Department of Finance at the time.

He said they were all checked by officials in his Department and audited each year.

“At no stage during my tenure of office as minister were any of these costs challenged as being in any way improper,” he said.

Prior to yesterday’s public statement the Ceann Comhairle had maintained he was obliged to stay out of the debate by virtue of the impartial nature of his office.

He wrote to all deputies and senators last Friday in a letter which expressed regret if the costs appeared high.

At the Listowel races on Tuesday he again expressed regret but did not apologise.

Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny, its deputy finance spokesman Kieran O’Donnell and its seanad finance spokesman Paschal Donohoe all demanded an apology beyond the qualified content of his letter to Oireachtas members.

Mr O’Donoghue obliged.

“When I expressed sincere regret in my letter of explanation to members I meant it and I can assure members that I have no difficulty in expressing my regret and saying I am sorry,” he said.

And he went further in a statement aimed directly at those suffering through the recession.

He said he should have paid more attention to the prices paid for the trips he took and places he stayed.

“I can fully understand how many people were shocked to read some of the detail. I apologise to these people, in particular, for the disquiet this controversy has caused,” he said.

The Ceann Comhairle said he would support any measures to reform the costs regime and secure greater efficiencies.

He said he will publish a full list of all expenses he incurs as Ceann Comhairle in the Dáil library.

He said this would avoid the “justified public disquiet, and to avoid controversy and embarrassment arising from excessive expenditure on costs”.

The Oireachtas Communications office said these accounts were being prepared but it did not know when they would be available to the library.


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