His attendance at the memorial services for Margaret Hassan and Ken Bigley was portrayed as just another series of junkets. Hassan and Bigley, one an Irish citizen and the other of Irish extraction, were brutally murdered in Iraq by terrorists. The Irish nation was properly and respectfully represented by O’Donoghue at their services.
Yet the Sunday Tribune would have us believe attendance at any event — be it secular or religious — is a junket.
At this point it is apparent to all that the newspaper is leading the campaign to oust John O’Donoghue from his position of Ceann Comhairle. They look at our neighbours in Britain and see that Michael Martin, Speaker of the House of Commons, was hounded out of office because of a single, once-off lack of judgement.
Now they relentlessly pursue John O’Donoghue on the issue of ministerial expenses. They conveniently ignore the fact that all these expenses were signed off by the Comptroller and Auditor General. No minister ever rings up and asks the costs involved in forthcoming travel, hotels and entertainment. This function is handled by staff and approved or disapproved of by the Comptroller and Auditor General. John O’Donoghue followed the precedent set by all previous ministers. He left the matter of expenses to those authorised to deal with them. John O’Donoghue is an honest and honourable politician. He has done nothing wrong. While in ministerial office, he has delivered outstanding value for money.
As Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform he brought into being the Criminal Assets Bureau which has delivered tens of millions of euro to state coffers.
In Arts, Sports and Tourism he was instrumental in delivering major sporting events for Ireland. As minister, he attended a range of international events overseas and worked with various agencies to attract high quality events to this country.
These events — no doubt eagerly pursued by other countries too — brought an unprecedented increase in tourism numbers and a major increase in tourism revenue into the country.
For example, the economic benefit of the Ryder Cup was estimated at €130 million.
John O’Donoghue played a major role in attracting the Volvo Ocean Race which was worth more than €44m to the Irish economy and he also delivered the prestigious Solheim Cup, as well as the World Rally Championships with the economic benefits that went with them. He worked tirelessly abroad to promote this country and tourism numbers increased during his tenure in office.
John O’Donoghue has delivered a letter to every member of the Dáil on his expenses. No doubt his account will be dissected in lurid detail by the media and will not be adequate to allay the sinister purposes of some. Nothing will satisfy those who see blood.
If any of the opposition parties take the dangerous step of proposing a vote of no confidence in John O’Donoghue, each and every member of the House, especially former ministers, will have to look deep into their own hearts and ask the question — have I as a member of the House or as a serving minister, handled my expenses any differently from those of John O’Donoghue?
If the members are absolutely honest, the answer will be a resounding no.
It is time the Dáil stood firm in the face of this orchestrated campaign of vilification by the mongrel foxes of the print media. I have no doubt that as the dust settles on this unhappy affair John O’Donoghue will continue in his role as an impartial Ceann Comhairle.