Sunday 15 September 2019

'Traumatised' Callely given gardening job behind bars

Jailed politician Ivor Callely
Jailed politician Ivor Callely
Ivor Callely
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

Jailed politician Ivor Callely will today begin working as a gardener, maintaining the grounds at Wheatfield Prison.

The disgraced ex-junior minister, jailed last week for using bogus invoices to claim expenses, was assigned the job by prison authorities after failing in a bid to be moved to a semi-open low security jail.

Within days of his imprisonment, lawyers acting for Callely (56) had asked the Irish Prison Service to consider moving him to the Training Unit at Mountjoy, which has more relaxed regime than other facilities in the capital.

However, the request is not being considered and Callely will serve out the rest of his sentence on the West Wing of Wheatfield.

Other inmates on the West 2 landing, where Callely has been given a single cell, include Daniel McDonnell and Keith Hall, the killers of 16-year-old Melanie McCarthy McNamara.

Callely will work in the grounds of the prison, maintaining flower beds and weeding.

He was moved to the west Dublin prison last Friday after undergoing a period of observation in the medical unit at Mountjoy, where staff initially expressed concerns for his state of mind.

His solicitor, Noel O'Hanrahan, yesterday said his client had been held in a single cell for 23 hours a day.

However, the Irish Independent understands this is no longer the case.

The solicitor said Callely had been "under considerable pressure" and the experience of prison was "shocking" and "traumatic" for him.

The former Dublin North Central Fianna Fail TD and senator admitted to four counts of using invoices believing them to be false instruments between November 2007 and December 2009 at Leinster House while he was a member of the Seanad. The invoices were used to fraudulently claim over €4,000 in mobile phone expenses.

Mr O'Hanrahan said his client had admitted his crime, was "contrite", and would not be appealing the severity of his five month sentence.

"It was wrong. It was a shortcut he should never have taken," he said.

However, he went on to say he believed Callely had been "scapegoated" and that there were much worse offenders than him who had not been caught.

"I do not want to mention the name of any person or parties, but I believe there should be a comprehensive investigation of expenses claimed by politicians," he said.

The solicitor claimed his client was the victim of a culture which promoted the claiming of expenses and that he suspected other politicians had improperly claimed sums which dwarfed the amounts involved in the Callely case.

"In a culture that has seen even recently the amount claimed by high-profile politicians come into question, is it not time to have a full investigation to examine every detail of the legitimacy of all expenses claimed by all politicians both past and present," he said.

Mr O'Hanrahan suggested an inquiry, similar to that undertaken by barrister Sean Guerin, who assessed allegations made by garda whistleblower Maurice McCabe, could be launched.

"He did a very expeditious report. There is no reason why someone of that calibre could not do a trawl through the files. If something is thrown up, which I think it definitely would, then it would put the whole thing [the Callely case] in context and this rotten house of cards would collapse."

Callely left politics in 2011 after a turbulent term as a senator during which he was suspended from the Seanad for 20 days for improperly claiming over €80,000 in travel expenses from his holiday home in west Cork.

Irish Independent

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