Saturday 24 August 2019

Peter Casey pays back election media training expenses

Presidential candidate's claim for media training after poll 'an error'

Reimbursement: Casey was the only losing candidate eligible to claim. Photo: Damien Eagers/INM
Reimbursement: Casey was the only losing candidate eligible to claim. Photo: Damien Eagers/INM
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Controversial presidential candidate Peter Casey claimed €1,875 in election expenses for communications training he got after polling day, the Irish Independent can reveal.

The training was carried out by the business owned by PR expert Theresa Lowe - the sister of one of Mr Casey's rivals for the presidency, Senator Joan Freeman.

It took place five days after the election on October 26, ahead of his appearance on 'The Late Late Show'.

Mr Casey last night said "an error" was made by a campaign staff member and an invoice for the training was sent to the election watchdog that "should not have been".

He said he is repaying the cash and has apologised.

Former 'Dragons' Den' star Mr Casey came a surprise second in the race for Áras an Uachtaráin after a campaign where he was criticised for his views on Travellers.

Due to his share of the vote Mr Casey is the only candidate other than the winner, President Michael D Higgins, to qualify for any reimbursement of expenses.

Candidates are entitled to reimbursements of up to €200,000 if they exceed a quarter of the quota of votes for getting elected.

The independent candidate disclosed election expenses of €119,911 to the Standards in Public Office Commission (Sipo) and received a full reimbursement.

Mr Casey's expenses statement to Sipo lists €1,875 in training provided by Theresa Lowe Communications.

When contacted by the Irish Independent, Ms Lowe said she provided Mr Casey with communications training on November 1 and 2 last year "specifically for his appearance on 'The Late Late Show'".

She said he had asked her to train him for the presidential campaign but she declined.

Ms Lowe said: "While I wasn't involved in my sister's campaign, it would nonetheless have been inappropriate to train an opposing candidate.

"Once the election was over there was no longer a conflict."

Sipo refused to comment on any individual's compliance with the election rules when asked about Mr Casey's expenses claim last week.

The watchdog confirmed that spending on "property, goods or services used outside the election period cannot be claimed as election expenses".

The election period was defined by Sipo as August 28 to October 26, 2018.

Last night the Irish Independent asked Mr Casey why the training from Ms Lowe's business was included as an election expense, and if he would pay the money back to the State.

He said Sipo contacted his campaign manager last week as they had an enquiry on an item that had been reimbursed to the campaign that appeared to be outside the dates of eligibility.

He said his manager asked for an immediate audit of all expenses to be carried out.

Mr Casey said: "The audit revealed that there had indeed been an error made by one of my campaign staff and that an invoice was submitted that should not have been, as the services were delivered outside the relevant dates.

"I contacted Sipo and informed them of this last week and we have already sent them reimbursement for the €1,875 that should not have been submitted and apologised."

Mr Casey added: "The audit also revealed that there were in excess of an additional €5,000 of expenses that could have been claimed that were not.

"Whilst I was not personally involved in the preparation of the expenses submission, in hindsight, I should have been more diligent and accept full responsibility for the error that was made."

Mr Casey said he has used Ms Lowe's company for media training for several years and had not been aware she was Ms Freeman's sister when he asked her to provide training.

Irish Independent

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