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Sunday 19 May 2019

It wasn’t me: Healy-Rae on 3,636 Dail calls to win TV show

Mr Healy-Rae said that he didn't know who had made the calls as he was not there at the time. Photo: Tom Burke
Mr Healy-Rae said that he didn't know who had made the calls as he was not there at the time. Photo: Tom Burke reporters

Kerry south TD Michael Healy-Rae said today he didn’t know if it was right or wrong that he won a celebrity TV show with 3,636 calls made from a phone in Leinster House.

The Independent representative said that he didn’t know who had made the calls as he was not there at the time.

“I didn’t ask for taxpayer’s money to be used. It’s not as if an individual took money for their own use. The money was for charity. It was not my responsibility,” he said.

The calls made to premium phone lines and costing a total of €2,639, were made from the phone of an elected member of the Oireachtas to the Celebrities Go Wild contest in October 2007.

All of the money raised went to People in Need and TDs and Senators are allowed to make calls free of charge so no rules were broken, according to the report of the incident in today’s Daily Mail.

Asked today if the money should be paid back, Mr Healy –Rae said today that he was not involved in making the calls and he didn’t know who was. “The calls came from Leinster House but nobody could say if they came from one phone, five phones or 25 phones,” he said.

His father, the former TD Jackie Healy-Rae said that he didn’t believe he had voted for his son from a Leinster House phone as he had a mobile phone.

“ There wouldn’t be a hope in the wide earthly world that I’d be in a position to make that number of calls. Not an outside hope in the world,” he said.

Independent TD Finian McGrath said today that we couldn’t have a situation where public money was being used for private purposes and said he would be raising the matter with his other Independent colleagues in the Dail today.

“I was shocked and appalled when I heard about it. We need a proper investigation into it,” he said.

It is understood that the number of calls was so great that an automatic dialling facility may have been used.

In the contest, celebrities including Michael Healy-Rae, the late Katy French, Michelle de Bruin, Daithi O Se, Alan O’Neill, Mickey Joe Harte and Victoria Mary Clarke, competed in a series of physical challenges in Connemara. The winner was voted for on 60c premium phone lines.

The show, which was broadcast on RTE, attracted 445,000 viewers nightly.

A statement from the Oireachtas confirmed that in 2007 a spike in calls to a 1513 number was brought to their attention by their telecoms service provider and as a result all calls to that number were blocked.

“In total 3,636 calls to 1513 717107 were made from the Oireachtas phone system. Each incurred a charge of 60cents, plus VAT, giving a total of €2,639. That charge was paid by the House of the OIreachtas Service in accordance with contractual obligations,” the statement said.

Celebrities Go Wild was RTE’s equivalent of I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here where eight celebrities were left to their own devices in Connemara.

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