Saturday 20 December 2014

FF senator plans court challenge to block probe into travel claims

Published 08/08/2014 | 02:30

Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill
Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill

A FIANNA Fail senator is to lodge an appeal with the Supreme Court in a bid to block an ethics watchdog investigation of his expenses claims.

Lawyers for Donegal politician Brian O Domhnaill have informed the Standards in Public Office Commission (SIPO) of the impending appeal, the Irish Independent has learned.

Earlier this year the High Court rejected a bid by Mr O Domhnaill (pictured) to halt the SIPO inquiry on the grounds that the complaint against him had been made anonymously.

The Irish-speaking senator also failed to secure an order that members of the commission hearing his case be bilingual.

SIPO is investigating travel and subsistence claims made by Mr O Domhnaill between 2006 and 2007, when he was a member of Donegal County Council.

The case was one of a number of complaints listed in the watchdog's 2013 annual report, which was published yesterday.

The report said there had been a huge drop in complaints between 2012 and 2013. Last year it received just 29 complaints, of which 16 were deemed valid.

This compared with 427 complaints made in 2012, of which 334 were valid.

The reason for the huge drop was that 388 of the 2012 complaints related to Independent TD Michael Lowry and his ownership of 22 acres of land in Wigan, England, which he had not declared.

SIPO dropped that investigation after finding the land was not worth more than the €13,000 threshold for disclosures.

The report said SIPO was seeking additional powers, such as being allowed to mount an investigation without the need for a complaint to be lodged first by a member of the public.

The body is seeking new legislation which would consolidate existing laws into one act governing public sector standards.

It also wants elected politicians to have to register liabilities, such as debts, in their declaration of interests.

SIPO also expressed concern that new agencies, such as Irish Water, were not yet bound by the same ethics laws as other State bodies.

Irish Independent

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