Callely controversy deepens as ethics watchdogs probe his property interests

IVOR CALLELY was embroiled in fresh controversy last night as ethics watchdogs launched a probe centred on his property empire.

The Seanad’s Members’ Interests Committee moved to investigate a complaint claiming Mr Callely failed to declare all his business interests to the Oireachtas authorities.

The embattled senator has been given a month to respond in detail to the allegations he did not reveal his interest in a number of properties on the annual register Oireachtas members must fill out.

The move came as watchdogs agreed to give Callely an extra two weeks to explain why he claimed nearly €3,000 in expenses between 2002-2006 for mobile phones using documents from a company that ceased trading in 1994.

The controversy has also aroused the interest of the gardaí and is subject to an internal investigation by senior Fianna Fáil party officials.

It is believed Mr Callely asked for the extension to allow him more time to consult with his legal team.

The latest controversy to hit Callely emerged after he listed two properties on the last three annual registers of members interests, though other public records reportedly show him with a stake in several other houses.

Oireachtas members are expected to declare interests in property of a certain value under Standards in Public Office Commission rules, though it is not a criminal offence if they fail to do so.

However, senators can be suspended from the upper house if they are found to have deliberately left business or property interests off the register.

Mr Callely has already been suspended from the Seanad for 20 days after the watchdog committee found he had deliberately misrepresented his normal place of residence, while claiming up to €81,015 in travel expenses to and from his West Cork holiday home.

After a four-hour meeting, the Seanad ethics committee also requested Fianna Fáil senator Larry Butler to appear before them on September 21 to publicly answer complaints regarding his travel expenses.

Mr Butler resigned the FF whip in June after it emerged he claimed travel expenses from his house in Carlow – despite owning a home in Foxrock, Dublin.

The senator insists he has done nothing wrong and wants to clear his name.

Dublin-based FF Senator Ann Ormonde was found not to have broken any standards in public office rules following complaints over her travel expenses.

Independent senator Rónán Mullen was also found to have no case to answer after the committee received a complaint resulting from Mr Mullen expressing alarm at being advised by a fellow Oireachtas member on how to boost expenses.

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