High Court awards Callely €17,000


Senator Ivor Callely is to receive some €17,000 for loss of earnings arising from his 20 day suspension from the Seanad as a result of a Senate Committee’s incorrect findings concerning his expenses claims, the High Court heard today.

Mr Justice Iarfhlaith O’Neill, who last month upheld Mr Callely’s challenge to the committee’s findings, said there had been a “grievous and egregious” breach of his constitutional rights which did “untold damage” to him.

Michael O’Higgins SC, for Mr Callely, said such were the unpleasant and catastrophic consequences of the committee’s finding that a “level of vitriol descended on him” including a snake being put in the porch of his home at one point.

When attending his son’s graduation from Trinity College Dublin, Mr Callely had also had to leave early “such was the level of snide comments” he was subjected to, counsel said.

His reputation further suffered at the hands of various media outlets who felt “emboldened” by the finding of the Seanad Committee on Members Interests that Mr Callely had misrepresented his place of residence as west Cork, Mr O’Higgins said.

That finding was overturned on January 14th last by Mr Justice O’Neill who ruled Mr Callely was in compliance with the applicable definition of “normal place of residence” when he made his expenses claim. The committee and the Seanad had misdirected themselves, in law, on this definition, the judge found.

He also found they had breached fair procedures in failing to afford the senator a reasonable opportunity to defend himself on a charge of breach of political ethics.

The committee’s decision, later confirmed by the Seanad itself, censured Mr Callely by suspending him for 20 days with consequent loss of pay of nearly €17,000.

The case was back before Mr Justice O’Neill today to deal with costs and ancillary orders arising out of his judgment.

The court heard there was a dispute between lawyers for Mr Callely and the Seanad over whether he was entitled to damages over damage to his good name.

Conleth Bradley SC, for the Seanad, said he was “gobsmacked” that such a claim was made now and as far as he was aware the only claim had been for loss of earnings.

Mr O’Higgins, for Mr Callely, said while his side were seeking payment for the 20 days his client had been suspended — totalling €16,948 — he was also asking the court to take into account the damage caused to his good name.

Mr Justice O’Neill said the judicial review proceedings had not included a claim for damages and in fact it was rare that they would.

Following talks, the judge was told an agreed order had been drawn up between the parties that the committee’s findings should be quashed and that he was entitled to be paid for the 20 days he had been suspended.

Mr Justice O’Neill rejected an application from the Seanad’s lawyer that there should be no order as to costs in the High Court case. The judge awarded Mr Callely “costs in their entirety” saying Mr Callely had to come to court to redress the breach of his constitutional rights.

The judge agreed to put a stay on his order in relation to costs in the event of an appeal.

Outside the court, Mr Callely’s solicitor, Noel O’Hanrahan, said his client was delighted his name had been cleared and hoped this was an end to the matter and “no further taxpayers’ money” would be spent on appeals.

Asked if he could understand why people might be angry with him, Mr Callely said he regretted having to take such “extraordinary steps” so as to vindicate his good name. It was an extraordinary situation and he was delighted he had been cleared, he said.