'Merry dance' Callely dodges jail after settling long-running debt

'Merry dance' Callely dodges jail after settling long-running debt

Disgraced former politician Ivor Callely has dodged another stint in jail after finally settling a long-running debt, writes Alison O’Riordan and Tom Tuite.

The ex-Fianna Fáil minister has paid €1,755 he owed for more than three years to an accountancy firm but Judge Michael Coghlan said today he led a “merry dance” over seven court appearances to resolve the debt.

He ordered him to pay an additional €1,750 in costs arising out of the action which came close to seeing Callely being put behind bars again. Finalising the case, the judge strenuously warned he would not wait another four years for him to pay the outstanding legal fees.

Callely (58) of St Lawrence's Road, Clontarf, was jailed for five months in 2014 for using false invoices to claim expenses of €4,207.45 at Leinster House, Kildare Street between November 2007 and December 2009 while he was a member of the Seanad.

A bench warrant for his arrest was issued on May 17 by Dublin District Court in an unrelated case.

These proceedings, which ended today resulted from his failure to comply with terms of a 2013 district court judgement compelling him to pay a €1,755 debt or face jail.

The former minister of State owed the money to Galway based accountants Gallagher & Company who had previously asked the court to issue a committal order. Callely had been warned by the judge that he was facing jail and had been also ordered to give a “root and branch” account of his finances.

On Wednesday, Karl Moran BL for Callely told the court that the “substantive debt” of €1,755 had been discharged by his client to the accountancy firm.

Solicitor for Gallagher & Company, Mark Newman said it had been “in part discharged” but the outstanding €150 had not been paid.

This cost was a result of expenses from hiring a private investigator in April to establish the whereabouts of Callely who also spends time in Northern Ireland and also has an address at Howth Road, Killester, Dublin 3.

Judge Michael Coghlan asked both sides to address the issue of costs. Mr Moran said his client was in a difficult position regarding paying costs as €1,600 was being sought.

Judge Coghlan said this matter had “a certain history” which ran back to 2013 and there had been “numerous appearances” in court “Mr Callely is under extreme financial pressure and the substantive debt has been paid and he had to get a loan to pay that off. I’m asking for a maximum amount of time to discharge the costs,” said Mr Moran.

The judge said he anticipated three to four weeks to bring the matter to a close but counsel for Callely said his client “was anxious” for the matter to be finalised. Judge Coghlan then said he would not wait another four years for the matter to be concluded.

Mr Newman said it dated back to June 2013 when an instalment order was originally made.

He reminded the court how Mr Callely had “frustrated matters” since then with seven court appearances to date.

Mr Moran then told the court a breakdown of costs had not been furnished to them.

“My client couldn’t be expected to discharge those fees until there is a breakdown,” said counsel.

“You appreciate the history of the matters. There have been a number of occasions that your client was in court and he was reminded that a consent order was put in place. In short a merry dance was being led,” said the judge.

Judge Coghlan then said he would adjourn matters for a month as he did not want to be put in the “invidious position of measuring costs.”

Mr Moran said his client wished to agree the amount sought from the plaintiff and the court rose to allow both parties agree a figure for costs.

A costs figure of €1,750 was then agreed by both parties which included the outstanding amount of €150, the expense from hiring a private investigator.

“My client has instructed me that he is under severe financial pressure and perhaps the court could fix an amount of time it sees fit in the circumstances,” said counsel.

Mr Newman then suggested to the court that a week would be an appropriate amount of time to discharge the costs. However counsel for Mr Callely said there was “no reality” in his client being able to pay in that time. Judge Coghlan told counsel that the former politician “does not get that latitude” and made an order that the costs be paid within thirty days.

“There is liberty to apply on default and the €150 by way of expenses for a private investigator is to be rolled up in those costs,” said the judge.

At a previous stage, former TD and senator Callely, who claims he has needs €2,500 a month “for a reasonable living”, had said he had done his best to contact the creditor about the debt.

In evidence Callely had also said he has an income of €7,683 a month. He claimed he pays €4,800 a month on a lease for a commercial property in Dublin which he lets out but he explained it was difficult to find tenants able to afford the rent.

However, in April, Judge Michael Coghlan had given a formal warning that he was in contempt of court orders and was facing jail. The judge had also said earlier he was not impressed with his evidence and wanted to see proof of his income and expenditure.

Callely failed to turn up to his next hearing on May 17 and a warrant was issued for his arrest. The warrant was executed on May 25 when he met gardai by arrangement and had a doctor's note to explain why he had missed court.

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