John O'Donoghue's PVC appointments

Thanks to a reader, I got my hands on a Phoenix article from 1999, detailing then Justice Minister John O’Donoghue’s appointments to prison visiting committees (PVCs).

PVCs are traditionally great tools for political patronage (or clientelism). During her time as Justice Minister Nora Owen appointed party hacks to the roles, as one would expect, and the same goes for John O’Donoghue, but with a twist.

Each PVC member is entitled to travel expenses (then around 60p a mile), at least monthly, and members receive a subsistence allowance of £20.74 a day. They can also claim £72 once a year for an away visit to another prison. (Those rules have since changed)

Nora Owen largely appointed PVC members who were close to their respective prisons, obviously keeping travel expenses down. So what do you think our friend John O’Donoghue did?

One example: JOD appointed FF Cllr Danny Harkin from Lifford in Donegal to the Cork PVC. Ah yes.

The Phoenix continues:

“This means that Cllr Harkin journeys around 600 miles each trip to Cork Prison and back, at least twelve times annually. This works out at £2,400 for the first 4,000 miles, £1,000 plus for the next 3,000 or so miles, £250 circa for subsistence and one £72 overnight stay, totalling around £3,700 per annum, or £300 a month tax free. Cork based PVC members would be entitled to a tiny fraction of this in expenses.”

But Cllr Harkin was not an anomaly. Donie Cassidy’s son Peter, from Castlepollard, was also appointed to the Cork PVC. John O’Neill from Newbridge was also on the Cork PVC, even though he would have been next to the Curragh Prison. He would travel 260 miles on the round trip to Cork, collecting nearly £200 each time for his troubles.

JOD made three appointments to the prison on Spike Island in Cork:

FF Cllr Tony Fox (Dublin)
Mary Green McGoldrick (Kilrush Co Clare)
Seamus O’Connell (Waterford)

He made four appointments to Mountjoy, in Dublin:

Denis Foley’s aide Michael Murphy (Tralee)
Denis Falvey (FFer and owner of the Amascaul pub in which JOD has clinics)
Aidan Mulally (FFer and owner of Mulally’s pub in Brandon, in which JOD has clinics)
Matt Ryan (FF Cllr, from Thurles)

Of the 52 appointments JOD made to PVCs, 15 were from Kerry. They include:

Arbour Hill prison (400 mile round trip):
Tom Fleming (FF publican from Scartaglin)
Donal O’Meara (Killorglin FF activist)

Curragh prison (360 miles return trip)
Michael Cahill (Kerry)

Loughan House (Cavan):
Denis Brosnan (Taxi driver from Castlemaine), drives 600 miles return to Cavan from Kerry.

And others:

Former FF TD John O’Leary did the 360 mile round trip from Kerry to Mountjoy, while Eileen Curran, one of JOD’s close party colleagues, travels from Waterville Co Kerry to Portlaoise.

More appointments in 1998/9:

Tony McCarthy, one of JOD’s confidantes from Cahirciveen travels the 400 mile roundtrip to Shanganagh Castle. Mary O’Regan from Sneem does the 450 mile roundtrip to St Patrick’s institution every month. Kathleen Hickey from Portmagee does the 500 mile round trip to Wheatfield in Dublin, as does Pat Driscoll, a Castlegregory FFer. JOD’s cousin, publican and councillor Michael O’Shea from Milltown, also does the roundtrip to Wheatfield.

One has to wonder what was going on at Horse Racing Ireland, to where JOD appointed his wife.

20 thoughts on “John O'Donoghue's PVC appointments”

  1. Christ on a bike… the bar for cute-hoorism just gets raised every time I hear something new about this guy…

  2. Its called jobbery/cronyism/milk the taxpayer and its the same game for all political parties.
    A seat in the Dail is considered a free ticket to worldwide holidays in the finest hotels and-ideally-by private Aer Corps jet.
    They vie with one another to see who can run up the highest expense bill.
    As for the prison committee game one can imagine each cunning gombeen TD like “the Bull” O'Donoghue, with the allocation of prison visiting privileges,consulting with his favourite cronies, and then dispatching them to the furthest point from their homes.It makes total logic for the greedy *astards and all their ilk.
    I was on a visiting group (of solicitors) to Mountjoy last year (no expenses!) and I wonder how all those so called “visiting committees” can sleep at night exploiting prisoners for personal gain, when you see for yourself the horrendous victorian conditions in which these wretches serve their time.
    If there is life after death,the “Bull O'Donoghue;all his political crew; and more than a few bank directors,will be consigned to a special Hell which will exactly resemble the size and shape of a Mountjoy victorian era cell,-ideally 8 of them to a cell, with “slopping out” only permitted once every 48 hours.

  3. This is getting ridiculous. This clown has to go. He should be made return all the money he wasted. Perhaps the one good thing that will come from this recession is (apart from the hope that FF will be out) is that scum like O' Donoghue will be (hopefully) taken to task. Surely, the vitriol of the people can't be ignored forever?

  4. What strikes me is the effort involved in visiting these far flung places. According to the Phoenix calculations it works out at 300 per month. OK it's a bit of cash but it's rather a lot of effort for 300 quid. A very long day on the road with a prison visit in between or maybe an overnight and two days gone on the road. And factoring in the time out from the 'proper' job? I'm not sure I would want this gig. It seems a lot of inconvenience for a comparatively slim reward?

  5. Excellent blog. Just wanted to tell you that a new FOI is coming out next week and quick heads up- you ain't seen nothing yet! Good luck.

  6. good stuff gavin – keep it up. in britain they got rid of JOD's equivalent – Gorbals Mick – because he was on a similar gravy train. O'Caoimh (Minister) was on Newstalk 106 this morning blathering on about this – with the circular excuse – “I presume the accounting officer approved these expenses, so therefore its OK”.

    In other words I'm only the Minister – if the Civil Servant approves it thats fine. But what Civil Servant is not going to approve it – its all within the guidlelines approved by who? – The politicians!

    And no Civil Servant is going to risk his/her career by questioning gravy trainers. And neither are people like Therese O'Connor (JOD's private secretary ) going to question a gravy train which provides her with so much (tax free) gravy.

  7. Gavin, there was a story doing the rounds about Healy-Rae TD, not sure if it's true but it's worth checking given the Kerry drain on the public finances.
    The way I heard it JH-R TD, since elected in 1997, has been entitled to the free transport, and has availed of it. But that when travelling by train to the Dail, free, he has claimed the allowable expenses. I wonder if it is true, even occasionally, especially since he has a history of claiming a lot of expenses, justified by the distance he has to travel.

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