Monday 23 October 2017

Senator blanked Cowen's probe into expenses

Fionnan Sheahan and Aine Kerr

TAOISEACH Brian Cowen's investigation into the conduct of Senator Ivor Callely drew a blank from the former Fianna Fail minister on his expenses claims, it has emerged.

Calls for Mr Callely to resign from the Seanad intensified last night in the wake of his resignation from Fianna Fail.

During the probe, Mr Callely gave no explanation for providing an invoice from a company, which went out of business years earlier, when making a claim for almost €3,000 worth of mobile phones and car kit expenses.

The senator resigned from Fianna Fail just before the internal inquiry decided his conduct was unbecoming.

"There was no engagement with party organisation at all. It's a serious matter of public concern and a serious matter within the party," a party source told the Irish Independent.

Fianna Fail officials were ready to call a special meeting of the party's ruling body, the national executive, next week to expel Mr Callely. To do this a motion would have to be proposed, seconded and voted upon.

The party inquiry committee met in the Alexander Hotel in Dublin for almost nine hours on Tuesday.

The committee was chaired by an independent legal expert, barrister Colm O hOisin, and comprised of five members of the national executive.

The meeting began at 10am in private session with Mr Callely appearing before it at 12 noon, accompanied by his solicitor and his barrister.

Mr Callely had already received an adjournment of the meeting until this week, but the committee refused any further extension of time.

The committee will still report back to the national executive at the body's next scheduled meeting.

Fianna Fail insiders insist it went through all the proper procedures in its investigation and rejected the senator's claim that he was not afforded due process.

The party wanted the matter dealt with by late August or early September and clearly did not want it overshadowing the parliamentary party's annual gathering in a fortnight.

Members of the inquiry committee were bemused by Mr Callely's claim that he wanted to know what they were questioning him about.

Last night Mr Callely's legal advisers issued a statement to "correct some inaccuracies in the public arena".

The statement from O'Hanrahan and Company Solicitors said Mr Callely's resignation from Fianna Fail was prompted solely by the refusal of the party committee to grant him an adjournment and instead rely on media allegations.

The fact that no evidence was given by Mr Callely "emphasises the committee's lust for judgment", the solicitors said.

"This vindicates Senator Callely's requirement for the particularisation of the unspecified complaints made against him," the statement said.

While Fianna Fail says it acted fast against the senator, opposition parties were less impressed. Fine Gael called for Mr Cowen to demand the senator's resignation.

Unfortunate

The party's transport spoke-sman, Simon Coveney, said it was unfortunate Fianna Fail had taken so long to act.

He said Mr Callely was "dragging politics down" having repeatedly failed to give comprehensive explanations for his expenses claims.

"We shouldn't forget either that Ivor Callely is in the Seanad because he is a Taoiseach's nominee there. And in my view, if someone is in the Seanad because of the gift of the Taoiseach and if they are unfit to be in Fianna Fail, well then I think the Taoiseach should be calling on him to leave politics."

Government figures also want to see him gone. Fianna Fail TD Mary O'Rourke said he would "serve himself, his family and the people who know him best by going".

Green Party senator Dan Boyle also called on Mr Callely to resign. He said the longer he serves as a senator, the more discredit he brings on the Seanad.

Irish Independent

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