Friday 26 May 2017

Silent Callely slips into Leinster House in secret

Still no attempt to explain expenses claims

Sam Smyth, Breda Heffernan and Michael Brennan

BRAZEN Senator Ivor Callely made a surprise appearance in Leinster House yesterday as the controversy about the alleged forgery of mobile phone invoices continued.

It has emerged that he also made secret visits to Leinster House -- where he still has access to his office despite his 20-day suspension from the Seanad -- on Wednesday and Thursday.

Yet six days after allegations that he had used forged receipts to support a €3,000 expenses claim for the purchase of mobile phones, Mr Callely steadfastly refuses to explain or even comment on the allegations.

Staff confirmed that Mr Callely had also visited Leinster House on both Wednesday and Thursday afternoons while the media laid siege to his holiday home in west Cork.

It is not known how Mr Callely left the house without being spotted. The disgraced senator was subsequently seen outside the family home in Clontarf on Thursday night.

A garda investigation is being set up, as is a fresh inquiry by the Seanad

Jaunty

The Members' Interest Committee is set to begin on Monday. But Mr Callely was reported to be in good spirits by those who met him.

"He was very jaunty, greeting staff around here for the past couple of days," said a veteran member of staff in Leinster House yesterday. "He seemed to be enjoying getting one over on the media camped outside his house in Cork."

Sources could not be sure how Mr Callely visited Leinster House on three successive days this week when he was the most sought-after figure in the news.

"There are quite a few journalists based in and around Leinster House, but he came and went undetected," said the source.

Mr Callely uses three different modes of transport to visit Leinster House: an SUV vehicle, an old Jaguar and a motorcycle, according to sources.

When the Irish Independent called to Mr Callely's St Lawrence's Road home in Clontarf shortly after 9am yesterday, a woman speaking over an intercom said the former junior minister was "long gone".

Mr Callely's wife Jennifer left the period house alone around an hour later before returning just before midday, again without her husband.

There were then various rumoured sightings of him around north Dublin, including outside his constituency office on Howth Road in Killester. However, Mr Callely continued to keep a low profile.

But on his walkabout around the offices yesterday, he sent thanks to Dublin MEP Gay Mitchell for his support on a late-night television discussion on Thursday night. However, the Fine Gael MEP had actually criticised Mr Callely on the 'Tonight With Vincent Browne Show' on TV3. Mr Mitchell compared the massive publicity given to an allegation over Mr Callely's €3,000 expenses to complaints about the exorbitant lawyer fees, which routinely go ignored. However, he made it clear that his criticism of the lawyers was not an endorsement of Mr Callely.

Mr Callely submitted receipts for nearly €2,900 for mobile phones between 2002 and 2006 but the company named on the receipts had gone out of business in 1994.

The Seanad Members' Interest Committee will meet privately at 2pm on Monday to discuss the complaint made against Mr Callely by Green Party TD Paul Gogarty.

The body will study complaints from the public that two other Dublin Fianna Fail senators, Ann Ormonde and Larry Butler, were allegedly claiming travel allowances for addresses not listed as their official residence. The three senators will not have to appear at the committee meeting. But they will be informed afterwards if the committee has decided that the complaints made against them merit an investigation.

If the committee adopts this course of action, all three senators are expected to be called as witnesses.

The potential sanctions the senators face if they are found to have committed a grave offence include a vote of censure in the Seanad, suspension from the Seanad for up to 30 days and the docking of pay for the period of the suspension.

Mr Butler could not be contacted for comment yesterday. Ms Ormonde said "Hello" and then hung up after being informed that the Irish Independent was ringing her. Calls to her phone then went directly to her message minder.

Meanwhile, Mary Hanafin yesterday joined the growing number of senior Fianna Failers lining up to criticise Mr Callely for failing to explain his controversial expenses claims.

The Tourism, Culture and Sport Minister said that it would be "very embarrassing" for Fianna Fail should Ivor Callely be re-admitted to the party following his suspension over expenses claims.

"I think the right decision was taken to suspend him," she said, adding that Taoiseach Brian Cowen or the Fianna Fail party "can't go any further" in relation to Mr Callely's membership of the Seanad.

Irish Independent

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