But Mayo representative claims calls to Kenya were work-related
Fine Gael’s Michelle Mulherin must reimburse the taxpayer if it is found her phone calls to Kenya at a cost of €2,000 were personal in nature, TD have insisted.
The Mayo TD has contacted the Ceann Comhairle to investigate the matter after insisting the calls were all work-related.
However, Ms Mulherin says she will repay the costs if Oireachtas authorities rule they were not all in line with her role as a TD.
Independent TD Richard Boyd Barrett said: “If these were personal calls then she must pay back the costs. We need to know if they were related to her public life, or not.”
Speaking about the controversy for the first time, Ms Mulherin said that the calls related to a “third party” who had been “maligned and defamed” by a newspaper.
The TD went on to say this person was her friend and former campaign helper Danson Kole.
Ms Mulherin said the calls related to media reports about Mr Kole in 2012. However, Oireachtas phone records released under freedom of information legislation to RTÉ show that calls to that number had begun in the previous autumn.
She admitted the cost of the calls seemed high after it emerged that the Kenyan mobile number accounted for 38 of the 100 most expensive calls from Leinster House in 2011-2012.
“Yes, I made some calls to Africa,” she said.
“None of them were personal. Indeed, for the most part, they pertained to a third party, who is a private citizen, who had been maligned and defamed in a newspaper article because of association with me and potential legal action arising there from.
“I had communications with Dan over a period of time and, as I say, he’s somebody that I would have dealings with in relation to political situations.
“I maintain the manner in which I used the phone was within the standard way, except it just happened to be somebody who was in Kenya.
“I have never been contacted by the Oireachtas or anybody in Leinster House in relation to any problem with phone calls.
“I didn’t act outside the jurisdiction of what I am allowed to do as part of my job as a politician.”
Ms Mulherin did not explain the reason for earlier phone calls to the Kenyan number, which began with a call for November 22, 2011, costing €72.62. The article about Mr Kole did not appear until April 21, 2012.
Ms Mulherin insisted she had dedicated her life to public office.
“Being honest with you, I don’t have a personal life,” she said. “All my life is taken up with politics.”
Ms Mulherin also expressed concern that the phone numbers dialled from Leinster House had been released under freedom of information.
She said the incident could be a “gamechanger”, as TDs’ communications with whistleblowers could be made known.
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