Michelle Mulherin maintains 130 calls made to Kenya were 'work-related'
FINE Gael TD Michelle Mulherin has maintained that all 130 phone calls she made from her Leinster House phone to Kenya were "work-related" after it emerged she has make a second payment to the Oireachtas.
The Mayo TD has paid a further €1,295 to the Leinster House authorities - on the top of the €2,000 she paid back last month.
The combined bill of €3,295 relates to 130 phone calls she made from her Leinster House phone to an individual in Kenya who previously worked on her election campaign.
Ms Mulherin admitted that she was the TD responsible for making phone calls to Kenya after a Sunday newspaper reported that she present in Leinster House on days during which the calls were logged.
She initially paid back €2,000 and sought a full investigation into her phone activity from Oireachtas officials.
Ms Mulherin told independent.ie tonight that she made a further payment of €1,295 last week after being in contact with the Oireachtas and Ceann Comhairle Sean Barrett.
But the first time deputy insisted that the calls were made for work purposes and that she received assurances from the Ceann Comhairle that she is entitled to make phone calls without being charged.
"I have now received word from the Ceann Comhairle as Chair of the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission which is responsible for the day to day running of Leinster House. It is very clear that in accordance with the 1962 Oireachtas( Allowances to Members) Act there is provision for me as there is for all members to make phone calls from Leinster House without charge. Therefore no issue nor problem arises out of my use of the phone," Ms Mulherin said.
"Even though the calls were work related I decided last week, as soon as the authorities clarified the cost, to pay for the calls in full. This was to avoid any perception that I benefitted personally and to put an end to the distraction and disruption to my work as a TD," she added.
The news of the second payment made by Ms Mulherin was detailed in Freedom of Information documents revealed during yesterday's 'Today with Sean O'Rourke' radio programme.
Ms Mulherin has previously confirmed that phone calls she made were to her friend Danson Kole, who had previously worked on her campaign.
The decision to pay back the additional €1,295 came after an investigation found that the TD made a total of 130 phone calls, costing €3,295 in total. The majority of the phone calls were logged in 2012 and 2013, records show.
Ms Mulherin opened Fine Gael’s national conference on the weekend, which was held in the Taoiseach’s home town of Castlebar.
But she is facing a dogfight to hold onto her seat as Mayo is reduced from a five seater to a four seater.
There are currently four sitting Fine Gael TDs – Enda Kenny, Michael Ring, John O’Mahony and Ms Mulherin – who all intend to contest the election.
But speculation is growing that Mr O’Mahony will change to the Galway West constituency.