Ireland’s longest-serving MEP who announced his retirement from politics has defended taking his EU salary while he was in hospital for nearly four years and claimed he hasn’t spoken to his party leader since mid-2014.
Brian Crowley, who has served as an MEP since 1994, said he had done nothing wrong by claiming his €95,484 annual salary while he was in hospital. He said during that time he was constantly working on constituents’ enquiries, as were his staff, and therefore he was also entitled to claim a flat-rate monthly allowance of €4,299 to cover office expenses, phone bills, computer equipment, and other costs.
“I have been in hospital for a long period of time — over three and a half years with a number of surgeries. Because of that, I could not attend the parliament in Strasbourg.
“Over the period of time I was in hospital, the work has not stopped. I was working from hospital and via my staff. I was working through my contacts within the EU Commission and EU Parliament,” said Mr Crowley.
The 54-year-old said “the last time Micheál Martin spoke to me was in July 2014”.
Mr Crowley said that despite not being chosen by Fianna Fáil to contest the presidential election in 2011, and being expelled from the parliamentary party three years later for leaving the Fianna Fáil grouping in the European Parliament, he bore no ill-feeling towards Mr Martin.
Mr Crowley thanked Mr Martin for the tribute he paid to him yesterday.
He said he was forced to leave the FF-aligned ALDE Group in Europe because it failed to agree employment contracts for some existing Irish staff and he subsequently joined the ERC grouping.
Mr Crowley said he did not personally inform Mr Martin he intended to step down as an MEP, even though he remains a paid-up member of his party.
“We’re not enemies, we’re not at loggerheads. He had to make a decision on the presidential (bid) and expulsion from the parliamentary party.”
He said that he was hoping to resume his visits to the European Parliament shortly and would continue in office until May 1.
He declined to endorse any replacement candidate.
Last night, Fianna Fáil Cork North Central TD Billy Kelleher declared his intention to formally contest the forthcoming European election.
Mr Martin and other senior party TDs are said to have reacted with anger and deep surprise at Mr Kelleher’s declaration.