One of the issues I’ve consistently tried to drive home over recent months is the enormous difficulty involved in getting the full picture of overseas travel expenditure for any government Minister.
Last week after another two months of waiting, I got back details from the Department of Enterprise on Ministerial travel for a specific year.
They charged the Sunday Tribune a fee, an admittedly small E90, but what was eventually released was hardly worth it.
For six or seven trips right around the world, the total expenditure for the Department had been just a few thousand euro. It covered car hire for one trip, the purchase of gifts and a single hotel bill.
Once again, the real cost is buried, hidden in the accounts department of the IDA and Enterprise Ireland, who it now seems actually picked up the tab for the Minister in question.
Obviously, we now have to go down the road of requesting the same information from those two bodies but there will be more delays and there will be more fees.
I am not even going to publish the material gathered so far online and I’ll only do it when I have everything, which will provide a clear illustration of how legitimate journalistic inquiry is being delayed for political reasons.
In future, any time you hear a government Minister saying that their overseas spending records are open and transparent and easily available under FOI, just mutter to yourself two simple words, the first of which is bull.
And any time you hear a journalist scoff at how “lazy” it is to do FOIs, ask them to try it themselves some time.
Suggest to them they waste months chasing up these files and ask them why was it that they never thought to inquire about John O’Donoghue’s global odyssey whilst a Minister and why we did.
Anyway, this is a long-winded introduction to the latest documents relating to John O’Donoghue, which I am posting below. They cover a three-year period between 2003 and 2005 when he was Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism.
This is what Tourism Ireland felt it necessary to spend on the Minister and by happy coincidence, three of the trips happened to clash with major horse racing events: twice with the Melbourne Cup in Australia and once with the Breeders Cup.
Somewhat fittingly, the chief executive of Tourism Ireland at the time was Paul O’Toole and he would presumably have had a fair knowledge of the expenditure involved.
In one of those strange, uniquely Irish twists, Mr O’Toole has since been appointed to clean up the mess at FAS and has replaced Rody Molloy as Director General there.
The John O’Donoghue documents are here.