Revealed: the junior minister who flew to Abu Dhabi in business class while Darragh O’Brien traveled in economy

A junior minister was flying business class, while the senior minister in his department was flying economy class on the same flight earlier this year, an analysis of travel records shows.

Documents show that Minister of State for Housing, Peter Burke, enjoyed the benefits of business class on a flight to Abu Dhabi as part of a government trip to mark St Patrick’s Day.

His longest-serving colleague – Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien – flew with him but had to settle for economy class.

A total of seven government officials – including the Taoiseach, Tánaiste, two senior Green Party ministers and the Attorney General – flew business class on their St. Patrick’s Day trips. Business class seats are responsible for emitting three times more CO2 than economy seats.

Mr. Burke traveled to Japan and South Korea as part of the St. Patrick’s Day program.

Fine Gael TD’s journey began on March 12 with a stopover flight from Dublin to Abu Dhabi – the same flight that Housing Minister Daragh O’Brien took to travel to Dubai Expo.

Mr Burke flew in business class with his private secretary, while Mr O’Brien and two helpers were booked in standard seats for the seven-hour journey. All of Mr. Burke’s flights on his trip were business class, with the exception of the trip from Tokyo to Seoul in South Korea, which was economy.


Housing Secretary Darragh O’Brien

A statement from the Housing Ministry said the travel policy is “fully consistent with the rules set out by the Ministry of Public Expenditure and Reform.

“For Minister Burke’s St. Patrick’s Day visit to Japan and Korea, the Department considered business class travel appropriate because of the long haul, work required during the trip and the subsequent 25 high-level engagements he had in both countries.”

Elsewhere, Environment Secretary and Green Party leader Eamon Ryan flew business class from Dublin to Washington and again from New York to Dublin in March for €3,312.

Tourism Minister and deputy party leader Catherine Martin traveled business class as part of her trip to Argentina, with stopovers in Paris and Amsterdam on the return. The total cost for the minister, her private secretary and her special adviser was €18,735.

A spokesman for Ms Martin’s department said such decisions were “dictated by the requirements of an itinerary,” adding that her work “began immediately upon arrival after a 17-hour journey.”​

Taoiseach Micheál Martin was part of a nine-member delegation that traveled to Washington DC for his visit to the White House on St. Patrick’s Day.


Business class cabin of an Airbus SE A350 airplane. Image: Bryan van der Beek/Bloomberg

Of these, the Taoiseach, his wife, Chief of Staff Deirdre Gillane, and the Taoiseach’s private secretary, Maura Duffy, traveled business class.

The rest of the group sat in Economy Class for the outward journey.

However, all delegates were upgraded to business class on the return flight after the Taoiseach tested positive for Covid in the US, prompting a change in flight bookings.

Records of first-time bookings show the additional cost of more luxurious travel, with business class tickets costing almost three times more than standard travel. For example, if an economy class booking for a trip to Washington had cost 861 euros for one of the security details, the Taoiseach was initially charged 2,394 euros for the same return flights in business class.

Elsewhere, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar traveled to Chile and Colombia with Private Secretary Éamonn McCormack and Chief of Staff Brian Murphy.

The trio flew economy from Dublin to London, but then business class for further legs of their journey, which included a stopover in Madrid before arriving in Santiago.

They later flew Economy Class to Bogota, Colombia, and then Business Class for the return to Dublin, again stopping in Madrid, for a total cost of €3,434 per person.

Other trips in business class as part of government travel for St. Patrick’s Day included Secretary of State at the State Department Colm Brophy, who flew to Mexico for €2,121. The government attorney, Attorney General Paul Gallagher, flew business class to Washington, the flight cost 3,254 euros.

According to government policy, government departments are required to make an annual payment to a climate protection fund managed by the Ministry of Environment by calculating the carbon emissions resulting from official air travel. Revealed: the junior minister who flew to Abu Dhabi in business class while Darragh O’Brien traveled in economy

Fry Electronics Team

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