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Saturday 19 August 2017

Senator quits after Callely's appeal win

Joe O'Toole: quit committee
Joe O'Toole: quit committee

Michael Brennan Deputy Political Editor

INDEPENDENT Senator Joe O'Toole quit the Seanad's disciplinary watchdog last night after the High Court had overturned its decision in the Ivor Callely expenses case.

Mr O'Toole was on the Seanad's Members' Interests Committee, which recommended a 20-day suspension for Senator Calley. It found that he had intentionally misrepresented his holiday home in west Cork as his primary residence for the purpose of claiming travel expenses.

But the High Court ruled last week that the committee had acted outside of its powers and breached Mr Callely's constitutional rights to natural justice and fair procedures.

In a letter of resignation, Mr O'Toole acknowledged that the High Court had found the committee was not entitled to come to its conclusions on Senator Callely's behaviour by exercising its political judgement on ethical standards.

"As a member of the committee, to be found to be in the wrong because of acting ethically and politically is not the worst political epitaph," he said.

Mr O'Toole said he could "live comfortably" with this verdict on the committee's actions, which he said had been done in good faith, without bias and on the basis of legal advice.

"Whereas our methodology was not in line with the statutory requirements, I honestly believe Senator Callely was wrong in what he did and having examined again the record of our proceedings I am confirmed in that view," he said.

Mr O'Toole said he had carefully considered his position on the committee and concluded that he should resign.

Expenses row

He confirmed last year that he would not contest the next Seanad election. Mr O'Toole (63) has been a senator since 1987. He is a former president of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions and former general secretary of the Irish National Teachers Organisation.

The cross-party Seanad members' interests committee met last night to discuss what action to take following the High Court decision. Its remaining five members decided to hold another meeting -- but the committee is ultimately expected to appeal the case to the Supreme Court.

Mr Callely's solicitor, Noel Hanrahan, has said the High Court ruling "clearly vindicated" his client's position.

Irish Independent

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