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O'Callaghan rejects 'conflict of interest' accusation due to work for Adams

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Campaign: SDLP leader Colum Eastwood (left) and Fianna Fáil’s Jim O’Callaghan canvassing in Ranelagh, Dublin. Photo: Aine McMahon/PA Wire

Campaign: SDLP leader Colum Eastwood (left) and Fianna Fáil’s Jim O’Callaghan canvassing in Ranelagh, Dublin. Photo: Aine McMahon/PA Wire

Campaign: SDLP leader Colum Eastwood (left) and Fianna Fáil’s Jim O’Callaghan canvassing in Ranelagh, Dublin. Photo: Aine McMahon/PA Wire

Fianna Fáil justice spokesman Jim O'Callaghan has rejected accusations his legal work for former Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams amounted to a "conflict of interest".

Mr O'Callaghan has ruled out going into government with Sinn Féin.

The Irish Independent revealed today that the TD - who also works as a barrister - was hired by Mr Adams to act in a defamation action against a national newspaper.

Mr O'Callaghan has disputed a claim there was a conflict of interest saying he has also represented individuals from a number of political parties including Fine Gael and Labour during his legal career.

He said his politics and views are "not affected in any way" by his representation of any person.

Mr O'Callaghan said: "I’m asked to do a job in the same way... if a patient goes in to Dr James Reilly or into Dr Leo Varadkar and sought treatment that patient is entitled and would get the best treatment from those doctors because they’re acting professionally.

"Similarly anyone who comes to me - irrespective of their politics - if they come seeking my legal services I give them the best treatment possible," he said on RTÉ Radio's Seán O'Rourke.

Fine Gael Minister Regina Doherty argued that barristers are allowed to refuse a case if a "conflict of interest" is likely.

Mr O'Callaghan initially began representing Adams in 2015 when he was a member of Dublin City Council.

Ms Doherty claimed that "Jim was desperately attempting to be a TD in 2015 and always knew he was going to be on the ticket".

"You have to ask yourself the question can you trust Fianna Fáil when they tell you that they won’t go into government with Sinn Fein," she added, listing some of Mr O'Callaghan's Fianna Fáil colleagues who haven't ruled it out in the past.

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Mr O'Callaghan said: "I am not allowed to comment on individual cases.

"So that means I can’t really dispute Regina’s claim there’s a conflict of interest here.

"She doesn’t know the circumstances of a case in which I previously represented a person. But I’m not going to talk about the case."

He said the public is aware that a barrister is asked to represent a client and "does so without fear or favour and without any concern for the politics of the client".

Ms Doherty said: "A barrister is also justified in refusing a case where there is a conflict of interest arises or likely to arise and I think Jim in fairness in 2015 you were on the ticket to be a Fianna Fáil TD".

Mr O'Callaghan said: "Regina you talk about a conflict of interest. You can’t state what it is. People come to me all the time looking for legal advice."

He rejected her claim that the conflict was Mr Callaghan "saying one thing and doing another".

Mr O'Callaghan said: "My views on Sinn Féin are unaffected by any representation I ever did for members of Sinn Féin just as my views of your party unaffected by the representation I did for members of your party.

"We have been very clear that we will not be going into government with Sinn Féin after the next general election."

The presenter Mr O'Rourke put it to Mr O'Callaghan that he would have been "spared all this" if he had said he would become a full-time representative when he became a TD.

Mr O'Callagan said the issue being raised was something that happened in 2015 when he had no certainty that he would become a TD.

He also said: "You don’t know what happened in the case... after I became a TD and I can’t tell you because I have a duty of confidentiality and the code of conduct precludes me from talking in public."

Mr O'Rourke asked Mr O'Callaghan if see sees "an appearance of hypocrisy here?"

Mr O'Callaghan rejected this saying: "No. None whatsoever."

He said that a barrister in Northern Ireland, Des Boal - who was a founding member of the DUP - represented members of the Provisional IRA during his legal career.

He said Fianna Fáil ministers used to go to Fine Gael barristers for legal advice.

"It is simply unfair and wrong for Fine Gael to suggest that simply because I represented individuals who have politics to me that I now adopt the politics of those individuals."


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