A SINGLE night’s accommodation for President Mary McAleese at a suite in an upmarket Italian hotel cost more than €3,100.
Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny was also put up in a luxury room in the Rome hotel at a cost of €1,200 per night, documents obtained for my new book Snouts in the Trough have revealed.
The bills were part of more than €21,000 spent on just a single night of accommodation at the five-star Grand Hotel De La Minerve for the Pope’s funeral back in 2005.
Also part of the entourage was Minister Mary Harney and the former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, who each ran up their own bumper bills.
The final tally for the night’s accommodation, newspapers, a meeting room and a hairdresser came to a grand total of €21,525.64
The original bill had been released to me in a heavily redacted form as part of a Freedom of Information request concerning Mary Harney. It showed first off that a deluxe room for Ms Harney had cost €1,200 and another €765 was spent on a room for her private secretary.
All of the other names had been blacked out. Not surprisingly, I was keen to find out just who was deemed sufficiently important for a room costing €3,198.
Listed under the name Martin McAleese, it was – as I suspected – booked on behalf of the President, whose overseas spending details are all exempt from Freedom of Information legislation (something that has to be looked at).
The president’s office will not discuss anything in relation to overseas travel by McAleese and her spokesman Wally Young simply said: “No comment.”
Mr Young was also part of the delegation that travelled to Rome and his room is listed as having cost €740.
Another guest that night was Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny, who was a special guest of the government, and for whom a deluxe room was booked.
He was incorrectly listed on the bill as Mrs Enda Kenny.
His spokesman said: “Enda Kenny, as leader of the opposition, was invited by the President of Ireland to be part of a state delegation visiting Rome … he accepted the invitation. He had no involvement in any of the arrangements in relation to the visit.”
(Perhaps this is one of the reasons Fine Gael were so unwilling to criticise overseas travel arrangements last year at the height of the O’Donoghue controversy)
A junior suite for the then-Taoiseach Bertie Ahern was also booked and cost €1,650.
The delegation travelled by government jet from Dublin on 7 April 2005 and returned to Ireland the following day, logbooks from the Department of Defence show.
Rooms were also booked for nearly a dozen advisors and senior civil servants including Wally Young, Mandy Johnston, Olive Melvin and Dermot McCarthy.
Those rooms cost a minimum of €740 for the “standard” package and up to €1,200 a night in some cases.
Such was the size of the bill, civil servants were querying details of it as if the prices agreed had originally been smaller. You can see the actual documents below.
These bills and hundreds of other previously unpublished documents form the basis of my book Snouts in the Trough, which will be available in bookshops this week.
The Rome Bill
And the article from this week’s Sunday Tribune