herald

Thursday 16 August 2018

Music chief's €28k dinner bill at our expense

MOST of you have probably never heard of him -- but we've all helped pay for his lavish lifestyle.

Little-known music chief John O'Conor splashed tens of thousands of euro on parties in his home, dinners at Patrick Guilbaud's and he's even paid out €8,500 at his local off-licence in one year alone.

The pianist's astonishing expenses, which included 50 lunches and 39 dinners in 2008, are to be investigated by a Dail watchdog that oversees the use of public money.

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) may eventually call on former director of the Royal Irish Academy of Music to publicly explain his entertaining lifestyle.

Between 2005 and 2008, Mr O'Conor spent almost €28,500 on work-related parties at his south Dublin home.

Michelin

Guests at his Rathgar house parties enjoyed canapes, fine wines, a silver service dinner and very select company.

Documents released under the Freedom of Information Act also showed that Mr O'Conor regularly took contacts out to dinner at some of the city's best restaurants.

His favourites included two-time Michelin Star Award winning restaurant Patrick Guilbaud's and popular pre-theatre venue the Trocadero.

In 2008 alone, Mr O'Conor dined out at Patrick Guilbaud's at least once a month, with bills totalling €2,234 on a company credit card.

The acclaimed concert pianist had worked for the RIAM since 1994 until he stepped down as director last autumn.

Last September he had a pension fund worth €553,979, which he made contributions to from his salary. His salary and expenses came in for criticism from the comptroller and auditor general who examined his RIAM benefits for 2008.

And now a Dail committee is about to further investigate the legitimacy of his expenses, which amounted to €105,000 in little over five and a half years -- on top of a salary of €225,000.

Chairman of the PAC Bernard Allen said today that a probe of Mr O'Conor's salary and pension will be scheduled for next month.

"Neither I, nor members of the committee, are happy about these expenses and it will be part of our upcoming probe due in February," he said.

Invoices for parties held in O'Conor's house in 2008 show that they were attended by up to 24 people.

On one occasion the bills included a tab of €1,477 for drinks and €1,789 on food.

The menus, provided by a private catering company, included a selection of canapes of marinated prawns topped with mango salsa, butternut squash soup cups and chicken bouchees.

Vodka

A local off-licence which specialises in wines and spirits provided 12 bottles of Prosecco, two of Lynch Bages 2001 and 36 of Chateau De La Cour. There was also Bombay Sapphire gin and Stolichnaya vodka for guests.

In the four years up to 2009, Mr O'Conor claimed €88,602 in expenses but the RIAM then introduced an annual limit of €12,500.

Following that move his bill fell to €11,815 for 2009 and stood at €4,816 for the first eight months of 2010.

Mr O'Conor has so far not commented on the public reports about his expenses.

kdoyle@herald.ie

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