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Callely may have to fight his expenses case again

THE groundbreaking legal victory by Senator Ivor Callelly, which overturned a decision by a Seanad committee to suspend him over an expenses row, is likely to be appealed to the Supreme Court.

Senator Callelly is also considering his legal options, which may include suing members of the committee for damages after they suspended him from the Seanad for 20 days without pay, losing him up to €10,000.

After the Sunday Independent had revealed that Senator Callelly -- whose longstanding political base is in Clontarf, north Dublin -- had claimed €80,000 for travel from his holiday home in Kilcrohane, Bantry, Co Cork, over the course of two years, he was the subject of an investigation by the Seanad Committee on Members' Interests.

It found last July that he had intentionally misrepresented his normal place of residence in order to claim expenses.

But in his High Court action, Mr Callelly, dubbed 'Ivor the Engine', complained that he had been painted as a "chancer", a "rogue" and "thoroughly despicable".

The senator claimed that he had complied with the Department of Finance's definition of a normal place of residence, which does not require it to be a person's principal home.

At a three-day High Court hearing, the committee argued that despite the definition, it was entitled to make a political and ethical judgment against Senator Callely and that the courts could not and should not interfere.

On Friday, Mr Justice Iarfhlaigh O'Neill found that the committee had acted beyond its powers and breached Mr Callelly's constitutional right to natural justice and fair procedures.

In a 73-page judgment, he said the Houses of the Oireachtas "do not have any kind of unlimited jurisdiction to govern the lives of their members " and ruled that the committee had failed to exercise its adjudicative function "by making a political judgement" on the issues that it investigated.

The Seanad inquiry was also found to have breached the senator's right to justice and fair procedure after it failed to afford him a reasonable opportunity to defend himself.

However the Seanad committee is to meet this Wednesday and is expected to appeal the ruling.

Mr Callelly's solicitor, Noel Hanrahan, said the senator was happy with the High Court ruling which "clearly vindicates his position".

A statement claimed: "Senator Callely, his wife and family have suffered greatly from having been placed in the glare of media publicity with attendant adverse, unfair and defamatory comments from some sections of the media.

"Senator Callely will be reviewing his legal decisions going forward with his legal advisers."

The case will come before the High Court on Monday week, when the issue of costs and possible damages may be dealt with.

Sunday Independent