Tuesday 12 November 2019

Mulherin: I'll repay €2,000 calls to Kenya if I am asked

Michelle Mulherin, TD
Michelle Mulherin, TD
Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

Michelle Mulherin has bowed to public pressure and conceded she will repay the taxpayer's money she spent on long distance telephone calls to Kenya if she is officially asked.

However, Ms Mulherin denied she broke any rules by using her Dail telephone to call a close friend in Africa and insisted none of the calls were personal.

In a statement to the Irish Independent, Ms Mulherin, who is Taoiseach Enda Kenny's constituency colleague in Mayo, first admitted making the calls, which have been alleged to cost €2,000.

The first-time TD said the calls related to a potential legal action against a newspaper which printed details of her association with a "private citizen". Speaking to RTE Radio One, yesterday, she confirmed she was referring to Danson Kole - a friend who worked on her election campaign in 2011.

"I've made calls and the figures that have been given seem excessive or expensive," she said.

"I have no problem in paying or refunding money", she added.

"But I'd just like to make the proviso (that) all calls have been made in the course of my work and as part of me being a politician. Nothing else, nothing personal."

Ms Mulherin said her close friend was a "political confidante" who she contacted over "a period of time".

She claimed Mr Kole was "maligned" by media reports about their relationship.

"He's somebody that I would have dealings with in relation to political situations - as I do have other people that I call, political confidantes," she said.

Details of Ms Mulherin's calls to Kenya were first revealed in Freedom of Information documents obtained by RTE. They were among a list of calls made by parliamentarians to foreign countries including Columbia and the United Arab Emirates.

Over the weekend it was established Ms Mulherin was the only TD or Senator who clocked in for work in Leinster House on days when calls were made to a specific number in Kenya.

Politicians are legally entitled to make calls to foreign countries under Oireachtas rules and records of calls made by TDs and senators are not recorded by Leinster House officials for confidentiality reasons.

However, the Oireachtas does seek refunds from civil servants who are found to have clocked up large telephone bills making non-work related calls.

Ms Mulherin said she has not been contacted by any officials from Leinster House about the Kenyan calls.

Irish Independent

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