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Monday 25 September 2017

Taoiseach under fire as Callely fails to explain €80,000 expenses

Fionnan Sheahan

Fionnan Sheahan

Fianna Fail Senator Ivor Callely claimed overnight expenses for 289 nights for working in Leinster House, despite his "home" always being in Dublin.

Taoiseach Brian Cowen's credibility came under fire last night after Mr Callely failed to explain his €80,000 expenses in a statement to the Seanad yesterday -- a move described as "thumbing his nose at" and "defying" the Fianna Fail leader.

Stung by the criticism of Mr Cowen's handling of Mr Callely, and the negative reaction to his brief statement, Fianna Fail scrambled to harden its leader's stance last night.

In a clear sign Mr Callely had not responded to his demand, Mr Cowen repeated his insistence that the senator "furnished a detailed statement" to the chairman of the Seanad.

The Seanad's ethics watchdog is due to meet today.

Mr Callely admitted he did sometimes claim expenses for travelling from his "residence" in Cork to the Seanad.

"I have always indicated that I have a west Cork residence, a Clontarf home and a constituency office in Dublin North Central and travel from all three, depending on circumstances, to fulfil my Seanad duties. I understand that I have complied with regulations," he said in the Seanad yesterday.

But documents show Mr Callely claims he chalked up 90,610km travelling up and down from Cork to Dublin in under two years.

From August 2007 to April 2009, the former TD claimed overnight expenses for 289 nights in Dublin -- meaning he was paid €139 a night, despite having his home in the city.

He also claimed for travelling 253 times on one-way journeys between Dublin and Cork, amounting to 90,610km.

If he was based in Dublin, he would only have been entitled to be paid a €61 daily allowance for attending the Seanad.

Correspondence between Mr Callely and the Houses of the Oireachtas shows how he repeatedly signed a form saying his 'home address' was "The Paddock, Kilcrohane, Bantry, Co Cork". He also pointedly filled in that this was "370"km from Leinster House.

After Mr Callely's brief statement, Fine Gael Seanad leader Frances Fitzgerald said the senator had dodged the issue and defied Mr Cowen's demands for an explanation.

"The Taoiseach asked yesterday for a written statement and that hasn't happened. I think he is defying the Taoiseach," she said.

Independent Senator Joe O'Toole said Mr Callely was thumbing his nose at Mr Cowen with a statement that was inadequate and failed to offer any reassurance.

"I believe it was a cynical attempt to bury this in process and hope it will go away. This isn't going to go away," he said.

The Green Party chairman Senator Dan Boyle said he was "far from satisfied" with the statement.

Disquiet

"More information should have been put into the public. Disquiet will not be eased," he said.

Fianna Fail repeatedly said it took the issue "very seriously" and believed it must be addressed "comprehensively and transparently". The party said the Seanad committee was the appropriate body to examine all documentation and to reach a determination.

"We hope that the committee will do so without delay at which point we will consider what action, if any, is appropriate," the party said.

Later in the evening the party added: "The Taoiseach believes it would be helpful if the senator furnished a detailed statement as soon as possible to the cathaoirleach of Seanad Eireann, as chair of that committee."

Irish Independent

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