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Taxpayer foots €100,000 bill as Callely gets €17,000 for lost pay

THE taxpayer is picking up Ivor Callely's legal bill of more than €100,000 -- dwarfing the €81,000 travel expenses claim that led to his suspension from the Seanad.

Mr Callely, who mounted a successful High Court challenge to his 20-day suspension from the Seanad last year, has also been awarded almost €17,000 for loss of earnings.

The Seanad committee on members' interests is preparing to appeal the High Court ruling to the Supreme Court.

But it agreed yesterday to compensate Mr Callely for his loss of earnings and to pay his legal costs, estimated at more than €100,000, for the five-day hearing. This figure does not include the State's legal costs.

The High Court heard that snakes had been placed on the porch of the north Dublin politician's home, such was the level of vitriol that descended on him in the wake of his expenses scandal.

His senior counsel Michael O'Higgins told the court that at his son's graduation from Trinity College Dublin, Mr Callely had to leave early "such was the level of snide comments" to which he was subjected.

After securing the payout for docked wages, the senator claimed he had suffered an abuse of power.

"I don't think we'll ever see the likes of it happening again," Mr Callely said. "I'm always supportive of people who have been unfairly treated by people in a position of power, who feel they can abuse that.

"I had to take extraordinary steps to deal with an extraordinary situation and I have been cleared 100pc and it's brilliant."

The High Court heard that Mr Callely suffered catastrophic consequences to his reputation as a result of a senate committee's incorrect finding about his expenses claims.

The judge who found in his favour earlier this month also said yesterday there had been a "grievous and egregious" breach of his constitutional rights which did "untold damage" to him.

Mr O'Higgins told High Court judge Mr Justice Iarflaith O'Neill that Mr Callely's reputation had further suffered at the hands of media outlets which felt "emboldened" by the finding of a Seanad committee that Mr Callely had misrepresented his place of residence as west Cork.

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That finding was overturned on January 14 by Mr Justice O'Neill, who ruled Mr Callely was in compliance with the applicable definition of "normal place of residence" when he made his expenses claim. The committee and the Seanad had misdirected themselves, in law, on this definition, the judge said.

They had also breached fair procedures in failing to afford the senator a reasonable opportunity to defend himself on a charge of breach of political ethics, the judge found.

The case was back before Judge O'Neill yesterday to deal with costs and ancillary orders arising out of his judgment.

However, the court heard there was a dispute between lawyers for Mr Callely and the Seanad over whether he was entitled to damages.


Conleth Bradley, for the Seanad, said he was "gobsmacked" that such a claim was made now.

Mr O'Higgins said while his side was seeking payment for the 20 days Mr Callely had been suspended -- totalling €16,948 -- he was also asking the court to take into account the damage caused to his good name. Mr Justice O'Neill said the judicial review proceedings had not included a claim for damages and it was rare that they would.

Following talks, Mr Justice O'Neill was told an agreed order had been drawn up between the parties that the committee's findings should be quashed and that he was entitled to be paid for the 20 days he had been suspended.

The judge agreed to put a stay on his order in relation to costs in the event of an appeal.

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