TAOISEACH Brian Cowen said it is up to Senator Ivor Callely to consider his position as a member of the Seanad, admitting that despite being an appointee of his predecessor Bertie Ahern, he is powerless to dismiss him.
The Taoiseach was more direct on the issue of Mr Callely repaying any expenses wrongly claimed, saying he had noted the former Fianna Fáil senator’s public commitment to repay such monies.
Questioned on the issue of Mr Callely’s expenses, following a damning Seanad committee report that found he had “misrepresented” his place of residence for expense claim purposes, Mr Cowen said: “The question of his continued membership of the senate is a matter for Mr Calley himself to consider at this point.”
He added; “From my point of view I’m not in a position to impose any sanction that would mean his non-membership of the senate. My opinion has been taken in relation to the decision in relation to parliamentary party membership and that indicated our position on that.”
Mr Callely resigned the Fianna Fáil parliamentary whip, under pressure from his colleagues, when the controversy over his claiming for travel expenses from a property in Kilcrohane, West Cork, rather than his family home in Clontarf Dublin, emerged two months ago.
Mr Cowen would not be drawn on the issue of whether he should use his “moral authority” in calling for Mr Callely to resign from his €65,621 position. A Seanad committee investigated Mr Callely’s claim to have been usually resident at the at his West Cork holiday home. A report released on Wednesday found Mr Calley had “misrepresented” his place of residence to claim €80,000 in travel expenses. He has been suspended from the Seanad for 20 working days.
Mr Cowen said: “Mr Callely I understand is also on record as saying that if there were payments that were inappropriate he would reimburse and he is on record in stating that.
“He has been subjected to the recommendation of the committee based on the discussions he had with them and the investigation that he has completed, these are matters at the end of the day for the senator himself.”
Mr Callely has strenuously rejected the findings of the committee’s report, while Fine Gael has called for the gardaí to investigate whether Mr Callely has committed fraud in claiming the expenses.
Meanwhile, Ógra Fianna Fáil has called on Mr Callely to resign immediately.
Ógra’s Leas Cathaoirleach Joe O’Neill said: “At this stage, immediate resignation is the only honourable option open to Senator Callely.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved