Six weeks and not a squeak

Six Sundays have now passed and the Ceann Comhairle John O’Donoghue is still holding his silence, refusing to comment on a controversy that shows no signs of disappearing.

When the Sunday Tribune first published details of his overseas travel expenditure back on July 26, I remember thinking at the time that perhaps it was wise that he stayed silent on what was being reported.

He would have clearly recalled the controversy over junketeering at FAS and remembered vividly how it was not the expenditure itself that ended Rody Molloy’s career, rather the interview on RTE Radio in which he vainly attempted to justify it.

Any attempt by John O’Donoghue to explain away the amounts of money being spent, €7,000 for a chauffeur for Cheltenham, €180 for hat hire, €900 a night on hotels in Cannes and Paris would only have ended in embarrassment.

Six weeks later and my position – unlike O’Donoghue’s – has changed.

The controversy over expenditure has not disappeared and it is clear from the Sunday Tribune’s latest story that Mr O’Donoghue’s travel itinerary was unusually extensive, even when compared to his Cabinet colleagues.

It is an open secret that many more stories remain to be told about O’Donoghue’s travels, not least because the original FOI only covered a two-year period between 2006 and 2007.

Plenty of travel took place in those other years he served at the Department, going right back to 2002, and it is quite literally only a matter of weeks before those too become public.

The time has probably come now where John O’Donoghue will have to address the issue, be it in a statement or a media interview. Whether he takes that opportunity is anybody’s guess.

Simply put, the explanations being put forward by Cabinet colleagues, both present and former, are only serving to further anger people.

For John O’Donoghue’s successor in the “Ministry of Fun”, Martin Cullen, there has also been ample opportunity for overseas travel.

In this week’s Sunday Tribune, we disclosed details of his trips abroad during his first year and a bit in office.

Although the costs involved in some of these trips have been pretty significant, it is quite clear that the price being paid for hotels and flights is starting to fall.

The era of €900 a night hotels, having a driver on call at Cheltenham for eighteen hours a day, and having a limousine collect a Minister at one Heathrow terminal only to drop him off at another appears at last to be over.

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