O'Donoghue Breaks Silence Over Expenses

Ceann Comhairle John O'Donoghue chose yesterday's race meeting in Listowel to break his silence on the controversy surrounding his expenses claims.

Mr O'Donoghue expressed "regret" over the expenses he had claimed while Minister for Arts, Sports & Tourism at the race meeting, but stopped short of an unqualified apology.

Speaking at today's race meeting in Listowel, Mr O'Donoghue reiterated his regret at the high level of expenses incurred by him.

He said: "I regret this, but I've also explained that these were costs paid to service providers on my behalf."

However, he added all the claims were independently audited, in accordance with Department of Finance guidelines and were legitimate.

He said the money was paid to service providers on his behalf and that he had not profited from it, adding that he had not gone into public life to make a profit.

"[I have] behaved in good faith and with probity throughout," he said.

Asked about whether he should make an apology, Mr O'Donoghue, the Daíl chairman, said "in so far as one regrets something, I think that is an apology".

Earlier this week, Mr O'Donoghue said he had stayed silent on the subject to protect the impartiality of his position of Ceann Comhairle.

The claims included details of €900-a-night hotels, a €1,400-a-day chauffeurs during a five-day trip to Cheltenham, and a claim for €250 for a water taxi in Venice.

In a letter to TDs on Monday, explaining his claims, Mr O'Donoghue said: "The importance of having an impartial Chairman of Dáil Éireann who stands back from matters of public and party controversy is reflected in the Constitution itself.

"I want to reassure you that I have at all times acted in good faith and with probity. As Members who have been office holders will be aware the incurring of costs by Ministers and office holders is a standard and common feature of holding such offices."

The leader of opposition party Fine Gael, Enda Kenny, called for a full apology from Ceann Comhairle over the matter.


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