Callely action adjourned to October

Callely action adjourned to October

Senator Ivor Callely's High Court action aimed at quashing a finding that he misrepresented his normal place of residence in order to claim expenses has been adjourned to October.

Today the High Court heard that the Committee will oppose the Senator's bid to bring a legal challenge against its decision.

The Senator is seeking orders from the court aimed at quashing the Committee's decision last July that the Senator had intentional misrepresented his normal place of residence as Kilcrohane, Bantry, Co Cork in order to claim allowances. As a result of the Committee's findings he received a 20-day suspension from the Seanad.

He claims that the committee erred in law in arriving at their decision and did not afford him fair procedures. As a result of the report he has been portrayed as "a rogue politician" who "ripped off the taxpayer."

The members of that committee are Senators Pat Moylan (FF) who is also Seanad Cathaoirleach, Camilus Glynn (FF), Denis O'Donovan (FF), Joe O'Toole (Independent), Alex White (Labour), Frances Fitzgerald (Fine Gael) and Dan Boyle (Greens).

Today Mr Justice Sean Ryan said that he was adjourning the leave application till September 28 next. He said that case will be before the President of the High Court Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns on that date for mention only, with a view that the case will be heard on October 4 next.

The Judge said that this was a case of "real importance" which "raised issues that had not been ventilated before the courts previously." The Judge also said that he agrees with a proposal to telescope the application so all matters can be heard at the same time.

Both sides had expressed their hope that the case would be heard before the Seanad resumes sitting on September 29 next, however the Judge said that he did not believe that given the issues raise the matter could be satisfactorily dealt with by the parties before then.

The Judge also said that anything that occurred in the meantime would have to be worked out between the parties.

In his proceedings Senator Callely claims that the committee erred in law and failed to have regard to relevant considerations, and that their report was carried out in breach of fair procedures.

He is seeking a number of declarations and orders including that the report findings are quashed and declared null and void. The Senator is also seeking damages.

Gerard Hogan SC for the Committee said that they are opposed to leave being granted as it would affect the committee from continuing its investigations into the Senator.

Moving the application Michael O'Higgins SC for Senator Callely said the only complaint before the committee was that Mr Callely had misrepresented his normal place of residence.

Counsel said that his client's claim for expenses from west Cork was validly made under the definition of a member's 'normal place of residence'.

Counsel said that under a definition by the Department of Finance, supplied to him by the Members Services of the Houses of the Oireachtas Service, this normal place of residence did not necessarily have to be a permanent, principal abode, but had to be a premises that was used for a lengthy period and went beyond mere shelter or passage - such as a few nights in a hotel.

Counsel said that it was Mr Callely's view and the view of the Members Services that he was entitled to make the expense claim he did. Counsel said that during their investigation the Committee erred in law by confused the meaning of the definition of what is a normal place of residence.

Counsel said that Mr Callely had a legitimate expectation that the working definition of place of residence that he was provided with by would apply when the committee was considering the complaints against him. However Counsel said that the Committee had disregarded the definition which it was not entitled to do.

It was also very clear, counsel added that one member of the committee, Senator Joe O Toole, had completely disregarded to apply the definition provided to the senator. Another Senator Alex White stated that it was irrelevant that the Co Cork residence complied with the definition of normal place of residence.

Counsel added that Senator O'Toole had taken into account irrelevant considerations when considering the complaint. Counsel said that Senator O'Toole had stated that Mr Callely had claimed Bantry as his place of residence in order to benefit from capital Gains Tax to the tune of €250,000 in the event the house was sold.

In his affidavit Ivor Callely said that he decided to reside in Co Cork, to reflect on his position in private following the loss of his Dáil seat in 2007. He said that he maintained his constituency office in Dublin following his appointment to the senate and commuted to Dublin.

He said that he declared his Bantry address, which he has had since 1993, as his normal place of residence.

He said that informed the Members Services of the Houses of the Oireachtas Service of his change of address in 2007 when submitting his subsistence and travel allowances for attending Leinster House. He then applied for an overnight allowance as opposed to daily allowance.

In 2008-09 he said that he began to spend more time in Dublin during the Lisbon referendum and to help his son during who was a local election candidate. While Kilcrohane remained his normal place of residence he did not claim expenses from August 2008 to December 2008 and from September 2009 to December 2009. He has not received any expenses for 2010.

Mr Callely said that following allegations in the media last May that he got €80,000 mileage from Cork two complaints were made alleging that he had wrongly stated his residence was Bantry to claim expenses and not Clontarf in Dublin.

Since then the former TD and Junior Minister has resigned from Fianna Fáil. He said that the damage to his reputation has evident in every aspect of his life. He said that he has been pilloried and subject to personal abuse by strangers.

He also claimed that the media coverage has been "vicious and highly personalised."

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