Callely expenses to be investigated

A SEANAD committee will meet today as a first step towards investigating why Dublin-based Senator Ivor Callely claimed travel expenses from his holiday home in west Cork.

After being ordered by Taoiseach Brian Cowen to provide a full account of the issue, Mr Callely infuriated party colleagues yesterday by reading a short statement in the Seanad devoid of any explanation.

Instead, he suggested the issue was “complex” and too difficult to address in a statement, and criticised the “media presentation” of the matter, saying it had left him “deeply upset”.

He said there were anomalies in the system and, that as he understood it, he had done nothing wrong.

“I’ve always indicated that I have a west Cork residence, a Clontarf home and a constituency office in Dublin North Central and travel from all three depending on circumstances to fulfil my Seanad duties. I understand that I have complied with regulations.”

But rather than explain fully, Mr Callely requested that the Seanad Committee on Members’ Interests examine the issue.

The original media story revealing the expenses had not given “the full picture”, whereas the committee could obtain “the full facts”, he added.

But the Taoiseach and Fianna Fáil made clear they were deeply dissatisfied with Mr Callely’s response.

A party statement said that while the Taoiseach was prepared for the committee to investigate the issue, he still wanted Mr Callely to provide a full statement to the Cathaoirleach of the Seanad “as soon as possible”.

The Cathaoirleach, Pat Moylan, also chairs the members’ interests committee.

“Fianna Fáil takes this issue very seriously and believes that it must be addressed comprehensively and transparently,” the party said.

“The Taoiseach is happy for this committee to examine all the relevant documentation and to reach a determination. He hopes that the committee will be in a position to do so without delay.

“In order to expedite the committee’s consideration of this issue, the Taoiseach believes it would be helpful if the senator furnished a detailed statement as soon as possible to the Cathaoirleach of Seanad Eireann, as chair of that committee.”

Fine Gael claimed Mr Callely had clearly defied the Taoiseach and called again for the senator to give a “a full and frank explanation”.

The controversy relates to the fact that Mr Callely registered his holiday home in Kilcrohane, Bantry, as his primary residence when appointed to the Seanad in 2007. He then proceeded to claim €81,000 in travel expenses for 2007 and 2008. This would have been substantially less had he claimed for his Dublin residence.

This year, Mr Callely told the Oireachtas he wished to return some of the expenses and clarify the position in relation to his second home. He sent back his monthly expenses for March and did not receive his entitlement in April.

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