Thursday 19 October 2017

Callely suspended from FF after snubbing Cowen

Michael Brennan

Michael Brennan

IVOR Callely was dramatically suspended from Fianna Fail last night after snubbing phone calls made to him on behalf of Taoiseach Brian Cowen.

The senator is facing the prospect of expulsion from Fianna Fail after the party launched its own investigation into allegations that he forged invoices to claim expenses.

As the controversy over his expenses raged last night, it emerged he was suspended for failing to answer phone calls from senior party officials ringing on behalf of Mr Cowen seeking to establish what had happened.

He is now facing an internal party investigation which will have three possible outcomes: no action; suspension from the party for a period; or expulsion from Fianna Fail.

According to a Fianna Fail source, Mr Cowen kick-started the process after he became aware for the first time of the allegations about Mr Callely's expenses claim to the Oireachtas Commission for almost €2,900 for four different mobile phones and car kits in November 2007.

Invoices

Mr Callely said he had purchased the products between 2002 and 2006. But the invoices for the purchases came from a company called Business Communications Ltd, which had been wound up eight years earlier.

Mr Cowen spoke to Fianna Fail general secretary Sean Dorgan on Monday and asked him to seek an explanation from Mr Callely. But there was no answer forthcoming from Mr Callely and he didn't return any calls he received from the party.

It is understood that Mr Cowen was then briefed on the situation. Fianna Fail headquarters reviewed the situation yesterday and decided to suspend Mr Callely.

In a statement last night, the party said the suspension was "without prejudice, and pending the completion of an internal investigation".

"The party today reviewed certain matters in the public domain concerning Senator Callely and agreed that this information establishes a possible prima facie case of conduct unbecoming a member of the Fianna Fail organisation," it said.

The internal investigation will now be carried out by a special committee made up of five members of the Fianna Fail national executive, which has around 80 members.

Fianna Fail sent a letter last night to Mr Callely and to the Oscar Traynor cumann he belongs to in Dublin North Central to inform them of its decision.

Last night, the youth wing of Fianna Fail announced that it would move a motion calling for the expulsion of Mr Callely from the party at the next meeting of the Ard Chomhairle.

Ogra Fianna Fail Leas Cathaoirleach (vice chairman) Joe O'Neill said the motion would ask members of Fianna Fail to remove Mr Callely's party membership "for conduct unbecoming of a party member".

"Ogra has already called for Senator Callely to resign following the findings of the Oireachtas Committee, yet he has failed to take notice of the will of the vast majority of Fianna Fail members," he said.

Mr O'Neill said Ogra can no longer support his continued membership of Fianna Fail and would be campaigning for his expulsion.

The move came after Green Party TD Paul Gogarty wrote yesterday to the clerk of the Seanad and to the Seanad's committee on members' interests to demand a formal investigation. He said he had also asked for clarification on whether it was possible to stop the wages of a senator who refused to answer questions about their expenses claims.

"It just takes one Ivor Callely not answering questions to make it look like all politicians are a bunch of greedy, self-serving money grabbers," he said.

Mr Gogarty said he took it on himself to make the complaint to the Seanad members' interests committee because he believed that the issue needed to be dealt with -- and not left unchallenged until the Dail and Seanad return at the end of next month.

Allegations

In his letter, he said he was making no allegations regarding Mr Callely's behaviour and acknowledged there may well be a rational explanation for the mobile phone invoices.

"However, there are clearly questions that need to be answered through a public investigation at the earliest opportunity," he wrote.

Mr Gogarty said that while Mr Callely was entitled to the presumption of innocence, he believed it would be better if he resigned from the Seanad until an investigation was completed.

He said that Mr Callely would be entitled to a full pension as someone with more than 20 years' service in the Dail and Seanad.

Sinn Fein's Dail leader Caoimhghin O Caolain called on Mr Cowen to demand Mr Callely's immediate resignation.

"Ivor Callely was a Taoiseach's nominee to the Seanad and in light of the ongoing controversy surrounding him it is now up to the Taoiseach to demand his resignation," Mr O Caolain said.

Mr Cowen has already said he does not have the power to remove Mr Callely from the Seanad.

Last month, the Seanad members' interests committee found that Mr Callely had intentionally committed an act of a "serious and grave nature" by claiming around €81,000 in travel expenses from west Cork rather than his home in Clontarf in Dublin. The Seanad accepted its recommendation to suspend him for 20 days.

Mr Callely could not be contacted for comment last night.

Irish Independent

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