Fine Gael leader demands full apology over expenses

THE huge expenses bill run up by John O’Donoghue during his time as Minister for Arts, Sports and Tourism was indicative of the broader “carry on” in Fianna Fáil that was “fast and loose with the tax payers’ money”, according to Fine Gael.

The Ceann Comhairle yesterday admitted that some of his expenses claims on lavish travel and luxury hotel rooms “appeared high”, but that they were legitimate.

In his first public comments since the controversy emerged almost two months ago, the chairman of the Dáil and Fianna Fáil Kerry South Deputy said: “I sincerely regret the costs that were incurred in so far as they were high and paid on my account.”

Speaking at the Listowel Races, Mr O’Donoghue added: “I have also outlined that the costs concerned were audited independently and the payments themselves were in accordance with Department of Finance guidelines and were legitimate.”

Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny, who also attended the race meeting, said the spending by Mr O’Donoghue “was an expression of the way that a party, too long in power, has been using public money to excess in some cases”.

Mr Kenny, who has not called for the resignation of the Ceann Comhairle, said: “It is as an expression of a carry on that was fast and loose with the taxpayers’ money and I should issue a full apology to the Irish taxpayer.”

He said: “Clearly there were excesses here which the Ceann Comhairle himself has referred to and this referred to a period before his appointment as Ceann Comhairle.”

In a radio interview from the Fianna Fáil party conference in Athlone, Taoiseach Brian Cowen said: “There is a new regime now in place in respect of all of that and that has been implemented by the Government and that is the correct and appropriate response.”

Minster for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin said “there’s no need for a lot of what goes on to be frank” in relation to expenses.

He said: “There’s no question we’ve come from a different era to where we are now and we have to ensure that we’re cost effective in everything we do and that we actually reduce costs to a minimum.”

Mr O’Donoghue made his comments yesterday after increasing criticism from within the Fianna Fáil party about his expenses claims which included €1,400 a day on a chauffeur at the Cheltenham Races and €1,000 a night hotel suites in Venice and Rome during his five-year term as Minister for Arts, Sports and Tourism.

Cork South Central TD Michael McGrath said: “It is unacceptable and I would never defend public money being spent in that manner.”

He said: “There can be no hiding place for any Government minister, any politician, any office holder, who spends public money in what is regarded as a frivolous way.”

Mayo TD Beverly Flynn, said: “There is certainly disquiet amongst members in the Fianna Fáil organisation. I think the prices and the costs involved were massive and I think they are unacceptable to people.”

Mr O’Donoghue refused to say sorry, but said: “In so far as one regrets something, I think that is an apology.”


Lifestyle

Another great aspect of being able to roam around Phoenix Park is the abundance of wild garlic, which flourishes throughout the great expanse.The Currabinny Cooks: going wild with garlic

Dyed purple hair, fake tattoos ... Ophelia Lovibond certainly went against type for her latest role.Succes from Failure: Ophelia Lovibond certainly goes against type for latest role

Keeping plants like lupins and delphiniums happy now will pay off this summer, says Peter DowdallPeter Dowdall: Embark on a perennial quest

Three figures with roles in the Cork band’s trajectory tell Ellie O’Byrne about the legend-in-the-making that was sadly never to be.B-Side the Leeside: Nun Attax and the Knocknaheeny Shuffle

More From The Irish Examiner