Senator wants probe to be held in Irish

A Fianna Fáil senator wants an investigation into an alleged duplication of expense claims conducted in Irish — and he is taking this fight to the Supreme Court.

Brian Ó Domhnaill is appealing a High Court decision to reject his argument that all members of the Standard in Public Office (Sipo) Commission should be bilingual before being able to adjudicate on the matter.

The ruling related to an investigation concerning travel and subsistence claims made by Mr Ó Domhnaill between 2006 and 2007, when he was a member of Donegal County Council.

Just days before Sipo was due to begin a public session on the matter in June 2013, Mr Ó Domhnaill secured leave from the High Court to bring his challenge.

In proceedings last November, he claimed Sipo was not entitled to deal with the case on the grounds that the matter arose from an anonymous complaint by a member of the public.

He also wanted orders requiring the case to be heard by a commission comprising members who are bilingual and able to conduct and understand the proceedings without the assistance of an interpreter.

He said his rights as an Irish speaker would be infringed unless the tribunal was bilingual.

In January, the court ruled the complaints before Sipo were not anonymous and rejected the argument that all members must be bilingual.

Details of the case were provided in the Sipo annual report for 2013 yesterday which said it has been informed by the senator’s legal representatives that he intends to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court.

The commission received a total of 29 complaints last year about breaches of ethics in public office, of which 16 were valid.

Three complaints were about the former justice minister, Alan Shatter — from Independent TD Mick Wallace and the now MEP, Luke Ming Flanagan — but were not upheld.

Mr Wallace lodged a complaint about information that Mr Shatter has “improperly disclosed personal information about him” during a Prime Time TV debate in June 2013.

The commission decided it was not of “significant public importance” — as described in the Standards in Public Office Act — to warrant an investigation.

The annual report welcomed the recent passing of laws on lobbying, which require a lobbing register and places restrictions on people taking up lobbying jobs after being employed in politics.

The total sum of donations declared by political parties last year was €171.644. Fine Gael declared €112,000 under the rules which require sums of more than €1,500 be disclosed.

The Exchequer funded political parties to the tune of €5.5m last year including €1.1m to Fianna Fáil, €2.2m to Fine Gael; €1.2m to Labour and €719,000 to Sinn Féin. The funding is made available on the basis of the share of first-preference votes in the 2011 general election.

A further €7.4m was made available through the parliamentary allowance, which is to help activities such as research and policy development and is based on the number of TDs.

Fine Gael received €2.7m; Fianna Fáil received €1.7; Labour got €1.8m and Sinn Féin €1.1m.

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