Thursday 30 March 2017

Callely 'wrongly branded a thief'

Inquiry had disastrous consequences -- lawyer

Sarah Stack

Sarah Stack

SCANDAL-hit senator Ivor Callely has been wrongly portrayed as a thief, his lawyers claimed yesterday.

The High Court was told the former junior minister had suffered disastrous consequences since an inquiry into his controversial expenses and subsequent 20-day Seanad ban.

But the Seanad committee asked the court to refuse the senator's challenge.

Mr Callely's lawyer said the parliamentary probe found that the senator committed an unethical act deserving punishment but nothing dishonest.

The senator, who resigned from Fianna Fail last month, is suing the seven-strong Seanad committee for loss of earnings after they barred him from taking his seat.

Michael O'Higgins, lawyer for the senator, told the court the publicity around the inquiry was used as a plinth to launch one of the most vitriolic attacks ever seen on a politician.

Mr O'Higgins said it was wrong of the Seanad Committee on Members' Interests to portray that Mr Callely had intentionally misrepresented his normal place of residence when lodging expense claims.

He maintained that this was reported "as an example of a politician in effect stealing from the system" and followed with a huge clamour for Mr Callely to be brought to a criminal court and indicted for his dishonesty.

"It was used as a plinth to launch some of the most vitriolic attacks seen by a politician elected by the people and who was entitled to a measure of respect," said Mr O'Higgins.

Mr Callely, whose political base was Clontarf, north Dublin, claimed €80,000 for travel from his holiday home in Kilcrohane, west Cork, over three years.

Inquiry

He is challenging an inquiry by the committee, which found he deliberately misrepresented his normal place of residence as being the holiday home, rather than his house in Dublin, and suspended him for 20 days.

Mr O'Higgins said his client -- who was not in court -- had not been allowed to appeal against the findings of the inquiry.

"The consequences of that determination for my client is disastrous," he added. However, Mr O'Higgins claimed the committee had since seemed to accept that Mr Callely complied with the rules for claiming expenses and made no findings that he had done anything dishonest or underhand.

In his affidavit, Pat Moylan, Cathaoirleach of the Seanad and the committee, asked the court to refuse Mr Callely's challenge. "In the circumstances, I believe that the committee was entitled to take the view that it set out in this report as to the ethical standards displayed by Senator Callely," he added.

Mr Moylan said the committee considered it significant that there were a number of links between Mr Callely and his Clontarf home. They included it being described as his family home, having his Seanad post and ministerial pension sent there, being registered to vote there and stating he was available in his constituency office three days of the week.

Conleth Bradley, barrister for the Seanad committee, will give his opening address tomorrow.

Irish Independent

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