Wednesday 13 December 2017

Ex-senator repaid €1,700 after expenses questioned

Barry Duggan

A FORMER senator has repaid a local authority almost €1,700 he had claimed in travel expenses to conferences while his car was off the road.

The Irish Independent has learned Fine Gael councillor Pat Kennedy repaid the money to Limerick City Council last year after his expenses were examined by senior management in the authority.

Mr Kennedy has refused to comment.

But information obtained under the Freedom of Information Act shows Mr Kennedy repaid €1,690.65 to Limerick City Council by cheque in April 2010.

Earlier that month, the council's acting head of finance, Pat Murnane, contacted Mr Kennedy for clarification on what vehicle had been used to travel to the conferences.

The councillor had earlier declared to the Motor Taxation Office that his Mercedes car was off the road following an accident in 2009. Mr Murnane also had responsibility for motor taxation with Limerick City Council.

Mr Kennedy had declared that his vehicle was not in use from October 1, 2009, through to March 31, 2010.

But he claimed travel expenses during this period, saying the vehicle was used to travel to five conferences and seminars in February and March 2010.

At the time, his two-litre car was in a garage being repaired following the accident on October 15, 2009.

Mr Kennedy informed Limerick City Council that a replacement vehicle -- which he used for transport "to fulfil engagements away from Limerick" -- was changed on a number of occasions by the rental company.

He claimed travel expenses for conferences in Dublin, Dundalk, Tipperary, Sligo, and a climate change seminar in Dublin.

A week after Limerick City Council queried Mr Kennedy's expenses claim, Mr Murnane informed the councillor that the local authority wanted the money refunded -- unless he could provide correct details on the vehicle used by him to travel to the conferences.

Mr Kennedy chose not to provide any other car details and repaid the monies on April 20, 2010.

Repaying the expenses, Mr Kennedy sent the cheque to Mr Murnane and wrote that, "without prejudice and wishing to avoid inconvenience or hassle to anyone and acting in good faith, I enclose herewith cheque".

Subsequently, Limerick city manager Tom Mackey decided to lodge the refund to the local authority's main current account and took no further action against Mr Kennedy.

When approached before a meeting of Limerick City Council yesterday, Mr Kennedy refused to comment on the matter.

A spokesman for the Standards in Public Office Commission said the issue was not reported to them.

It was up to the management of Limerick City Council to decide to report such a matter if they deemed it necessary, he said.

Mr Kennedy is the second Fine Gael councillor this year to be caught up in an expenses controversy.

Terence Slowey of Donegal County Council apologised in May for claiming expenses on the double for attending two conferences which were on at the same time in 2008.

Mr Kennedy is a well-respected barrister and a well-known figure in Irish politics.

He unsuccessfully contested the Limerick East constituency in three general elections -- 1969, 1973 and 1977. In 1981, he was elected to the Seanad on the 'Administrative Panel'.

A Dail seat again escaped him in the February 1982 general election, but he was successful in the Seanad elections in 1989. He was first elected to Limerick Corporation in 1991 before losing his Seanad seat in 1993.

He left Fine Gael at the turn of the millennium to serve as an independent councillor, but returned to the party in 2009.

Last April, he lost out on a Seanad seat when he contested the Cultural and Educational Panel.

Irish Independent

Promoted Links

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Promoted Links

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News