Callely legal bid sparks fears of new probe delay

Michael Lavery

A LEGAL challenge could "slow down or stymie" a Seanad probe into Senator Ivor Callely's mobile phone claims and his declaration of property assets.

The deadline for Mr Callely's written response to the complaint on almost €3,000 of mobile phone expenses, allegedly using receipts from a company that was gone out of business, is due to be received tomorrow by the clerk of the Seanad Committee on Members Interests.

He is not required to respond in writing to a second investigation into his financial affairs, alleging that he did not disclose all the properties owned by him in a statutory parliamentary declaration, until September 21. But sources said that a legal challenge being mounted in the High Court today by Senator Callely's legal team could have "knock-on" implications for the investigations.

"It could either slow down or stymie the ongoing work of the committee," a source close to the committee was quoted as saying.

Senator Callely is taking legal action against the Seanad Committee on Members Interests, which investigated and made findings against him over his expenses claims.

In July, the committtee suspended Senator Callely for 20 days without pay after it found that he deliberately misrepresented his normal place of residence as being his holiday home in west Cork, rather than his home in Dublin, for the purpose of claiming allowances, amounting to over €81,000 -- a finding the former junior minister denied. Further allegations about the senator's expenses claims later emerged, prompting Fianna Fail to launch an internal investigation. The senator later resigned from the party, claiming he had been denied unfair procedures.

Now Senator Callely is starting High Court proceedings against the Seanad Select Committee on Members Affairs.

A High Court judge was due today to hear an application for judicial review. If granted, the judicial review is unlikely to be heard until near Christmas or the New Year. The senator is taking the case against the committee and its seven members.