Kung-fu career gets the chop

WHILE some politicians like to quote Marx or JFK, Ivor Callely is more of a ‘Kung Fu Panda’ kind of guy, telling a Seanad probe into his expenses: "Yesterday’s history, tomorrow’s a mystery."

Unfortunately for the former Fianna Fáil junior minister, tomorrow is no longer such a mystery — he’s off to jail.

The ex-roads minister has long been a political car crash, but it is still a spectacular fall from grace in a career full of the most unusual twists and turns.

Callely first really burst onto national consciousness on Budget Day 2005 when he refused to go quietly from his ministerial post when pushed, and forced an emergency Cabinet meeting to get rid of him.

In the end, it took three telephone calls from then taoiseach Bertie Ahern for Callely to bow to the inevitable.

But not until he had gone on national radio to deny he was he was resigning — at the very moment his resignation letter was being faxed to the taoiseach’s office.

A histrionic performance saw him blame a “sinister” campaign to bring him down, as he insisted the fact a developer had decorated his home for free was not important.

However, he did deliver an interesting nod to self-awareness with the almost throwaway remark: “I certainly have — I believe — skeletons in my cupboard the same as everybody else. Is there anybody out there who doesn’t?”

Part of Ahern’s tight North Dublin gang of pals, Bertie had a history of doing his buddy political favours.

Voters who hoped those skeletons would disappear with him into a shallow political grave when they turfed him from the Dáil in 2007, must have been surprised when Mr Ahern played the angel of forgiveness and resurrected his career by making him a senator.

When questions were later asked as to why Callely claimed €81,000 in travel allowances for journeys to and from his Bantry Bay holiday home, when his family residence was just a few miles north of Leinster House, the senator used the fact Mr Ahern had informed him of his elevation to the upper chamber via a letter to the Cork address as proof it was his primary dwelling.

His peers were not so trusting, and after a bizarre series of appearances before the Seanad’s watchdog committee in which he compared himself to St Francis of Assisi and mused on how well respected he was internationally, before deploying his killer, Kung Fu Panda quote, the verdict was damning.

The committee found he had made a “deliberate misrepresentation” of his primary residence, and suspended him for 20 days.

Outraged at the injustice of it all, Callely challenged the decision in the High Court the following year when judges found in his favour and awarded him €17,000 for “loss of earnings.”

SERENDIPITY also featured in a more nautical way with Callely after his yacht — aptly named Serendipity II — saw him return to attention when gardaí questioned him over a strange incident in 2009 after the vessel was involved in a reported hit-and-run with other boats at Baltimore.

The yacht reportedly collided with two vessels and caused €40,000 worth of damage. When he was tracked down, Callely helped gardaí with inquiries and passed on his insurance details. One report suggested the senator had been clad in a kimono when the gardaí came knocking.

With a five-month jail term, Callely’s reputation is well and truly sunk now.


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