Callely lawyers argue court’s right to review findings

LAWYERS acting for Senator Ivor Callely have rejected claims by a Seanad Committee that the courts do not have the jurisdiction to hear his action.

Last July the Seanad Select Committee found the senator had misrepresented his normal place of residence in order to claim expenses.

Conleth Bradley SC, acting for the committee, said the courts cannot review the committee’s finding against Senator Callely.

However, on what was the second day of the hearing, Michael O’Higgins SC for the senator argued that the courts are not precluded by the Constitution from reviewing a decision.

In its statement of opposition, the committee argued that the court lacks the jurisdiction to interfere with a decision of an Oireachtas Committee.

It claimed that by virtue of separation of powers and Article 15.10 of the Constitution, the Seanad and its committees are masters of their own deliberations.

Mr Bradley told the court that under the Constitution, the Oireachtas had the power to make its own rules for members, which did not apply to ordinary members of the public.

Any issue of unfair procedures, or damage to reputation or breach of rights were matters for the Seanad and not for the courts. It was as simple as that, counsel said.

He said there was extensive case law to support his submissions. Mr Bradley also said that under the Ethics in Public Office Act, the committee was permitted to make a political and ethical judgment against a member of the Oireachtas and it was under this act that the determination against Ivor Callely was made.

The Senator, a Dublin North Central Fianna Fáil TD from 1989 to 2007, is seeking orders to overturn the committee’s finding that he had misrepresented his normal place of residence as Kilcrohane, Bantry, Co Cork, to claim allowances. As a result of the findings he received a 20-day suspension from the Seanad.

Sen Callely is also seeking damages.

The senator claims that the committee disregarded the Department of Finance’s definition of a normal place of residence for the purposes of claiming expenses when it made a determination against him.

It made a political and ethical decision against him, which he claims it was not entitled to do.

The committee – made up of 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) – claims that it acted properly and denies that its findings amounted to a breach of fair procedures.

It argues that its determination was one that related to political ethics and propriety of Sen Callely’s behaviour in submitting such expenses claims.

The case before Mr Justice Iarfhlaith O’Neill continues.


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