I have not broken any rules, insists Callely
Published 25/06/2010 | 15:54
Senator Ivor Callely insisted today he had not broken any expenses rules - but vowed to cough up the money if he was proved wrong.
At a public Seanad meeting over his €81,000 travel and overnight claims, the ex-Dublin North Central TD said he had moved to his Cork holiday home in 2007 after the shock of losing his Dail position.
The Fianna Fail Senator, who resigned as junior transport minister in 2005 following controversy over renovations on his Clontarf home, said the scandal and subsequent loss of his seat had been a traumatic experience.
"As far as I was concerned I was hung for a non-hanging offence," he said.
"I felt I needed to spend more time away from my political constituency to reflect on my career and consider what options were open to me."
During almost three hours of intense questioning the Senator insisted his invoices stacked up, but claimed the old expenses regime contained a number of anomalies.
He told the Seanad committee on members' interests he tried on a number of occasions to have his living arrangements - which alternated between west Cork and Dublin - reflected in his expenses and claimed he sought guidance on the rules covering places of residence.
Mr Callely said he attempted to change his normal place of residence last May and was informed he could not do so until this year.
He also said he did not claim full expenses in 2008 and 2009, when he was spending more time in the capital.
"I think you will find looking at the facts that I've been very open and honest and I've taken every reasonable action available," he added.
"I don't believe I have received any monies that are due to be reimbursed, but if they are I will do so."
The Senator, who is still registered to vote in Dublin, claimed he didn't make public how long he was spending at the home in picturesque Kilcrohane, west Cork because he wanted to protect his family.
When asked why his website still stated that he lived in the capital, Mr Callely said he wanted to keep up his political image in his former constituency.
"In hindsight perhaps this is a matter that I should have handled differently and I apologise for that," he said.
"Maybe I shouldn't have continued with my constituency office in Killester, maybe I should have equally put my new residence in west Cork on my website and said I'm shutting up shop in Dublin North Central, but that's not the response that I wanted to put out.
"I now realise that there's more to life than 24/7 politics and on reflection maybe family should come first at all times.
"It was for that basis that I was protecting them."
Mr Callely, who resigned the Fianna Fail party whip earlier this month, could face a month's suspension from the Seanad if he is found in breach of regulations.
No stranger to controversy, the Senator lost his post in the Cabinet in 2005 after it emerged John Paul Construction had paid for the painting of the Senator's home in Clontarf during the early 1990s.
The construction company paid sub-contractor Philip Lambert directly and the connections brought an end to Mr Callely's junior ministerial career.
The Senator was also embroiled in a garda investigation after his yacht was allegedly involved in a hit-and-run in Baltimore harbour, off Cork.
His boat Serendipity II reportedly collided with two vessels and caused €40,000 worth of damage.
It is understood he was tracked down, helped with inquiries and passed on his insurance details.