Sunday 22 October 2017

Lawyer forces U-turn on MEP expenses

Dearbhail McDonald Legal Editor

THE European Parliament has bowed to pressure from an Irish lawyer to publish an internal report detailing how MEPs systematically abused their expenses.

Legal experts say that the three-year legal action waged by Irish barrister Ciaran Toland is a major breakthrough for transparency and press freedom and means that MEPs and European officials will have "nowhere to hide" in the future.

The 2008 Galvin Report detailed how MEPs abused an allowance system intended for parliamentary assistants. It also detailed how a number of MEPs funnelled money to family members, non-accredited staff and national political parties.

Mr Toland, a specialist in EU law who had used the transparency regulation in the course of his legal practice, fought and won a court battle with the parliament to release the internal audit, known as the Galvin Report.

He was moved to seek disclosure of the report after journalists were refused access to it.

Classified

Last night in Brussels the Bureau of the Parliament -- 20 senior deputies who are responsible for its budget, administration, organisation as well as its staff -- decided to release the previously classified 2006 report carried out by Robert Galvin, the parliament's chief internal auditor.

Mr Toland told the Irish Independent that the decision was a "tremendous victory" and he congratulated the parliament for ordering its release.

"No self-respecting parliament should say it can't debate its affairs in public," he added.

Mr Toland was represented by an Irish legal team led by former Fine Gael senator Eugene Regan SC and barrister Jonathan Newman.

Solicitors John Kettle, Tony Burke and Aisling Fitzsimons completed the five-strong team. Mr Kettle said that MEPs had "nowhere to hide" following Mr Toland's victory.

"The ruling ushers in the transparency now required of European democratic processes," he said.

Mr Toland's original request for the document in 2008 had been turned down on the basis that "the use members make of the allowances available to them is a sensitive matter" and that "elements of the report could be used to derail the debate on the reform of the (allowances) system and compromise rapid reform".

Irish Independent

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