Callely facing further ethics probe over his property assets
EMBATTLED Fianna Fail senator Ivor Callely was last night embroiled in a third ethics investigation -- this time over his property portfolio.
Mr Callely was granted an extra fortnight to explain his controversial mobile phone expenses claims and to allow him to get more legal advice.
But the senator is now being asked to also explain his failure to declare his interest in a number of properties -- as revealed in the Irish Independent in recent weeks.
The Seanad committee on members' interests has received a formal complaint about Mr Callely's failure to declare his interest in at least seven properties to Oireachtas authorities.
His Fianna Fail colleague, senator Larry Butler, will have to appear before a public sitting of the committee to explain why he claims expenses from his family's house in Carlow, rather than his political base and long-time home in Dun Laoghaire.
The complaint means Mr Callely is now facing into a third investigation by the Seanad watchdog. The committee met for four hours yesterday to consider the responses to complaints about four senators.
The Seanad committee previously investigated Mr Callely's travel expenses claims from his holiday home in west Cork and suspended him for 20 days.
It found he deliberately misrepresented his normal place of residence as being his holiday home in west Cork, rather than his home in Dublin, for the purpose of claiming expenses.
The current ongoing investigation follows revelations that Mr Callely submitted an expenses claim to the Oireachtas Commission for almost €2,900 for four different mobile phones and car kits in November 2007.
Mr Callely has until September 8 to respond to this and September 21 to deal with his declaration of property interests -- the same day Mr Butler will appear before the committee.
The committee closed the file on complaints against two other senators.
Fianna Fail senator Anne Ormonde's claims of travel expenses from her holiday home in Waterford, while her home was being renovated, was found to not be in contravention of the law.
Ms Ormonde provided substantial evidence showing she had cleared the temporary move with the Oireachtas and notified authorities of it nine months in advance.
The committee decided there were reasonable grounds for the complaint, which "was not frivolous or vexatious", but it decided the senator "did not misrepresent her normal place of residence for the purpose of making claims for allowances".
The complaint against independent senator Ronan Mullen, over an anecdote he told of a colleague advising him to claim expenses from his family base in Galway, was also dismissed.
Attacking the Seanad committee, Mr Mullen said he was dissatisfied because it failed to acknowledge the possible damage caused to his reputation by the committee's own handling of the complaint.
"There was never any doubt but that this complaint would be dismissed. It's a case of 'better late than later'. But I am surprised at the committee's response," he said.
"They have bungled this case for two weeks, failing to dismiss a vexatious complaint and seemingly content to allow the public to get the false impression that there were questions about my expenses."
The latest complaint against Mr Callely centres on his property ownership. His register of interests for 2007, 2008 and 2009 include just two properties, both in Dublin. They are a house for letting in St David's Wood in Artane and an interest in the development site at 59/60 Clontarf Road, which has since gone into receivership.
However, this newspaper revealed that documents filed with the Registry of Deeds show he was the joint owner of at least seven other properties in recent years. Mortgages were secured against one of the properties in 2006 and six others in 2007.