Editor of The Phoenix magazine Paddy Prendiville sheds light on a trip to Sligo taken by Tánaiste Mary Harney using an Irish Airs Corps aircraft at public expense.

On 14 December 2001 the Tánaiste Mary Harney used an Air Corps CASA plane to fly to Sligo so she could attend the launch an off-licence in Manorhamilton, County Leitrim, owned by her friend Fergus O'Hagan.

When Paddy Prendiville asked the Department why the Tánaiste went to Manorhamilton he was told it was to open,

A significant local project.

However he discovered this new enterprise was an off-licence rather than a new factory brought about by foreign investment.

The CASA plane is normally used for enforcing the country's fishing rules and was not taken away from duties on the day in question. However Prendiville is questioning the use of tax payers money to facilitate such a trip.

The cost of the plane alone, without any personnel and without any Garda escorts, which were also used, is £2000 an hour or part thereof, and there at least two hours in total flying time.

A spokesperson for the Tánaiste said using the aircraft allowed her to complete a full day of ministerial engagements in Dublin during the day and she would not have reached Manorhamilton in time had she travelled by car. 

However Prendiville was told the Tánaiste used the plane so that she could attend Government meetings later on in the evening. But as she arrived at Baldonnel Aerodrome in Dublin at 11.30pm, he is suspicious of this claim.

A 'Morning Ireland' report broadcast on 17 January 2002. The presenter is Cathal Mac Coille