Hanafin on fence amid calls for Callely to resign
Three other ministers demand senator quits
TOURISM Minister Mary Hanafin last night refused to back the growing calls for embattled senator Ivor Callely to resign from the Seanad.
But a number of other ministers did call for Mr Callely to consider his position, including Environment Minister John Gormley, junior minister Sean Haughey, the son of disgraced former Taoiseach Charles J Haughey, and Defence Minister Tony Killeen
The pressure is mounting on Taoiseach Brian Cowen to demand the former Fianna Fail senator's resignation.
If Mr Callely resigns, he would be giving up an annual salary of €69,647, plus a package of allowances and expenses worth about €20,000 a year.
In refusing to take a tough stance on the rolling controversy, Ms Hanafin repeatedly insisted a Seanad committee investigating Mr Callely had a process in place and the matter should be dealt with there over the next two weeks.
Ms Hanafin was the first Fianna Fail cabinet minister to address Mr Callely's status since his resignation from the party and the finding by an internal party inquiry that his conduct was unbecoming of a member.
She said Mr Callely should be given the opportunity to give his side of the story.
"Now that there's a process in place, that should be allowed to take its time," she said.
When pressed repeatedly on whether Mr Callely should resign or whether Mr Cowen should intervene and call for him to stand down, Ms Hanafin said the Seanad committee on members' interests should be allowed continue and finish its work.
Mr Callely must co-operate with the Seanad committee and should use the opportunity to put "his side" across, the minister said.
"I think anybody in any circumstances would be given that opportunity. The Seanad is giving him that chance," she said.
"Given that it has already started (the process), I think, genuinely, that he should take the opportunity, give his side of the story, give the answers that he says he has and let's see what comes out of that in two or three weeks time."
Meanwhile, Mr Gormley said it would be "desirable" for Mr Callely to resign from the Seanad.
"This is an episode that, again, reflects badly on politics," he said.
Mr Callely's constituency colleague Sean Haughey also joined the chorus of calls for the former Fianna Fail TD to consider his position.
Reflecting the lack of local support for Mr Callely, Mr Haughey said the senator should stand down.
However, similar to Ms Hanafin, Mr Haughey did stress it was important for the Seanad committee to continue its inquiry into complaints against Mr Callely.
The junior education minister served as a TD with Mr Callely in the Dublin North-Central constituency for 15 years. Mr Callely was first elected alongside his father, former Taoiseach Charles J Haughey.
Mr Killeen said it would be "very helpful" if Mr Callely stepped down from the Seanad, but he did not believe the embattled former minister would go voluntarily.
"I don't expect it to happen but in view of all that has occurred, the view that's been taken by his peers in the Seanad and indeed by the party, I think that he has to look very seriously at that option," he added.
Fine Gael wants Mr Cowen to end the "embarrassing charade" and is calling for Mr Callely to resign.
Lining up Fianna Fail TDs and senators to call for Mr Callely's resignation is a "pointless exercise", Fine Gael Seanad justice spokesperson Eugene Regan said.