FORMER Ceann Comhairle John O'Donoghue was one of four people given free premium tickets to the rugby World Cup final at a cost of 1,700 to the taxpayer.
The cost was just for tickets to the match -- in which South Africa beat England in Paris -- and did not include flights and accommodation. The bill was footed by the Irish Sports Council, and Mr O'Donoghue was accompanied by council chairman Ossie Kilkenny and two others, whose identities have not been revealed.
The former Ceann Comhairle refused to return calls last night, while it was unclear if he was offered the tickets or asked for them. The latest revelation comes only weeks after the South Kerry TD resigned from his position as Ceann Comhairle amid uproar over the 550,000 in expenses racked up in his five years as Sports Minister and the 250,000 in his two years as Ceann Comhairle. His resignation came after details of years of lavish spending emerged.
At the time of the rugby final, which took place in October 2007, Mr O'Donoghue was Ceann Comhairle and had been moved from his previous position as Arts, Sports and Tourism Minister after the General Election that May.
The Sports Council could not explain why they paid for his tickets, given that he was no longer Sports Minister.
council chairman Ossie Kilkenny also refused to comment when contacted last night and refused to say who accompanied him and Mr O'Donoghue to the match.
Four tickets were bought for 1,678 -- two were in the most-expensive category for the game at 498, and another two were in the second-most-expensive one at 341.