Callely facing loss of party whip
Senator's future with Fianna Fail hinges on probe into expenses claims
TAOISEACH Brian Cowen last night moved to kick Fianna Fail senator Ivor Callely out of the party -- pending an investigation into his €80,000 expenses claims.
A Seanad committee decided yesterday to proceed with an investigation and if there is any wrongdoing found, Mr Callely may also face disciplinary proceedings and possible suspension -- but there is no legal basis to expel him from the Seanad.
Mr Cowen took a firm stance with Mr Callely last night following his previous insistence that he produce a written explanation of his actions.
Fianna Fail said it noted the decision of a Seanad committee to commence an investigation and felt Mr Callely "must deal with it comprehensively and transparently".
Government Chief Whip John Curran will propose a motion at the next meeting of the Fianna Fail parliamentary party that the party whip be removed from Senator Callely, "without prejudice, and pending the completion of the work of the committee".
The former minister also made a written statement to the chairman of the Seanad, as repeatedly demanded by Mr Cowen.
But pressure is mounting on the former minister with senior Fianna Fail figures privately suggesting he should "stand down" from the party while the process is under way.
And within the Seanad yesterday, there was a claim that "an issue of fraud arises in this case which is being examined". Fine Gael Senator Eugene Regan subsequently withdrew his remark and said he was not accusing anyone of fraud.
The Seanad committee investigating Mr Callely's expenses claims said "sufficient evidence exists to sustain a complaint under the Ethics in Public Office Acts 1995 and 2001".
The Seanad Select Committee on Members Interests considered Mr Callely's request to examine his expenses claims and examined two complaints from members of the public. The committee will meet again in a fortnight to continue the investigation, which is expected to be finished quickly.
In the meantime, the committee will be considering Mr Callely's written statement and seeking more information on the expenses regime from the Houses of the Oireachtas.
The committee is also using the legal advisers in the Oireachtas in its investigation.
Mr Callely claims he was appointed to the Seanad by former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern from his address in Cork -- not his home in Dublin. The senator has previously pointed to his appointment to the Seanad from his Cork address as evidence of the house outside Bantry being his home.
Back in August 2007, the Department of the Taoiseach assistant secretary Peter Ryan wrote to him at his Cork address informing him of his appointment. The letter was sent to 'Mr Ivor Callely, The Paddock, Kilcrohane, Bantry, Co Cork'.
Mr Callely was nominated at the time by the then Taoiseach, Mr Ahern. A year later, in October 2002, Mr Callely wrote to an official in the Houses of the Oireachtas verifying he was living in Cork.