Courts

Saturday 26 July 2014

Callely followed rules on expenses, appeal told

Tim Healy

Published 25/04/2013|04:00

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FORMER senator Ivor Callely complied with the definition of "habitual residence" when he claimed expenses from his home in west Cork despite a Seanad committee finding against him, the Supreme Court has been told.

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Michael O'Higgins SC, for Mr Callely, said his client "didn't design the system, he followed it". In 2008, 2009 and 2010 "on a worst-case scenario, the evidence was that he spent 60pc plus of his time in Kilcrohane (in Co Cork)", Mr O'Higgins said.

The seven-member Supreme Court was hearing an appeal by the Seanad Committee on Members Interests against a decision of the High Court, which found there had been a breach of fair procedures when the committee censured Mr Callely over an expenses claim.

They suspended him for 20 days with consequent loss of pay of nearly €17,000, which was later overturned.

Mr O'Higgins said the findings made by the committee against Mr Callely, who had previously represented Dublin North Central as a TD, had "emboldened the media" to write appalling things about him, and someone had also put a snake on his porch.

Wrong

But it had been accepted he had complied with the definition of habitual residence given by the Department of Finance when he made his expenses claims for 2008, 2009 and 2010.

He said the committee had not referred to the definition and, in the course of pronouncing its determination, had "disapplied" the definition. They also "never told anyone they were doing this".

They applied a "new definition" as the test of whether Mr Callely had done anything wrong and the new definition was "wholly different" from the previous one, Mr O'Higgins said.

Earlier yesterday, William Binchy, SC, for the committee, argued that the courts did not have the power to overturn the findings made by a Seanad committee.

He said based on the separation of powers in the Constitution, the findings made against Mr Callely were "not justiciable", meaning they were not capable of being placed before a court for determination.

The appeal was adjourned until next month.

Irish Independent

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