Ivor breaks silence and gives phone cash back
I won't quit says Callely, claiming he was given the receipts 'in good faith'CONTROVERSIAL: Callely
Beleaguered Senator Ivor Callely has broken his weeklong silence on the latest expenses controversy to claim that he received mobile phone receipts "in good faith" and had no reason to believe they were not in order.
The senator has also revealed that he handed back a cheque for €2,879.45 in expenses which he claimed for mobile phones, when he went to Leinster House last Friday.
"I do not know how these receipts were issued by a company that had ceased trading . . . it is now clear that these claims should not have been made," he said in a statement given to the Sunday Independent yesterday. "I regret the difficulties that this has created, all of which will be fully dealt with in the course of the investigation," he said.
Mr Callely said he would be "assisting" with any inquiry and he had also contacted his legal advisers to help "vindicate his position".
In an exclusive interview, the former Minister of State said that he was being targeted by powerful interests and hit back at his critics.
"I am a target -- it is absolutely amazing the messages I am getting. People are saying I am being targeted and this continuous drip-drip is a witch-hunt. I don't know why they are picking on me," he said.
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And Senator Callely declared that he would not be stepping down from his €80,000 a year position in the Senate, where he sits as one of the Taoiseach's nominees.
"As most people have said, stepping down is running away from it. I am not doing that. If I have done wrong, I will deal with the issue. If I have to pay a penalty I will pay it -- whatever it is. I have spoken to my family and it (resigning) is not on the agenda," he said.
It is now understood that gardai will seek to question Senator Callely about the allegations regarding his expenses claim for mobile phones. They are also said to be seeking copies of the mobile phone receipts which were lodged with the Oireachtas authorities and other documents relating to the expenses claims made by him arising from six complaints, including one by Green Party TD Paul Gogarty.
Mr Callely was under huge pressure to explain how he submitted receipts for four mobile phone car kits in November 2007, which he claimed to have purchased between 2002 and 2006. It emerged last Sunday that the company Business Communications Limited, based in Fairview Strand near Mr Callely's Clontarf, Dublin, home, went into liquidation in 1994, although a liquidator was involved with the company for the following 10 years until 2004 when it was finally wound up.
"I received the receipts in good faith for vouching purposes, in the belief that they were correct. I had no reason to believe that the said receipts were not in order," Mr Callely told the Sunday Independent yesterday.
He was also adamant that the invoices were "original" and he brought his wife Jennifer to Leinster House with him on Friday to verify this.
"I am not hiding from anything," he said.
But when he was questioned by one associate about who actually supplied him with the invoices, the senator said "nobody is going to own up to that".
Speaking exclusively to the Sunday Independent, Mr Callely also admitted that his property dealings -- including a €10m investment near his Clontarf, Dublin home -- went "belly-up" with the collapse of the property market.
"I am not nearly as well-off as I was five years ago," he said yesterday. "I am a workaholic, I love a challenge and I will work out a solution on this (the property) issue. I don't think I am any different to many people in this country. Yes, there are financial pressures and challenging times. I got involved in the property market, which a lot of people did, and it went belly-up.
"My wife is back working, my daughter is working, I am working. My attitude is that there is nobody dead, we have to cut our costs like everybody else and get on with it and that's what I am doing."
A Senate committee on Members Interests is due to meet tomorrow to discuss the latest expenses allegations and Fianna Fail are carrying out their own internal inquiry into the affair.
Senator Callely has caused huge embarrassment to the current government since the Sunday Independent revealed that he had claimed €81,000 for travelling expenses from his holiday home in Kilcrohane, Co Cork, when he was using his home in Clontarf, Co Dublin.
He was suspended from the Senate for 20 days after an inquiry by the Oireachtas committee and last week, after the fresh allegations emerged, he was suspended by Fianna Fail "without prejudice" pending an internal investigation into allegations of "conduct unbecoming" of a member.