A HIGH Court judge has cleared the way for an investigation by the Standards in Public Office Commission (SIPO) into the alleged duplication of expenses claims by Fianna Fail senator Brian O Domhnaill.
Mr Justice Gerard Hogan yesterday dismissed on all grounds a challenge by Mr O Domhnaill to the investigation concerning travel and subsistence claims made by him between 2006 and 2007, when he was a member of Donegal County Council.
The expected investigation outcome will have a big bearing on Mr O Domhnaill's hopes of taking one of the five Dail seats in a new unitary Donegal constituency.
Mr O Domhnaill (36) has stood for the Dail twice -- in a by-election in November 2010 that was won by Sinn Fein's Pearse Doherty; and in February 2011, in which he and outgoing Fianna Fail minister Mary Coughlan both lost out.
SIPO was due to begin a public session concerning the expenses matter last June but that did not proceed after Mr O Domhnaill secured leave from the High Court days earlier to bring his challenge.
In his judicial review proceedings, Mr O Domhnaill claimed the commission was not entitled to deal with the matters because, he claimed, they arose from an anonymous complaint by a member of the public. Alternatively, he sought orders requiring the case to be heard by a commission comprising members who were bilingual.
In his judgment yesterday, delivered in Irish, Mr Justice Hogan rejected the argument that the complaint being investigated was anonymous and found the substantive complaint before the commission was that made by the mayor and county manager of Donegal County Council.
The judge also ruled that there was no requirement either under the Constitution or the law for the commission members hearing the complaint to be bilingual.