Ivor Callely a controversial and divisive figure during his long political career

Callely an anomaly in the world of politics, writes Harry McGee

Former Fianna Fáil junior minister Ivor Callely has been sentenced to five months in prison for fraudulently claiming mobile phone expenses during his time as a senator. Irish Times political correspondent Fiach Kelly reports.

Mon, Mar 3, 2014, 18:31

Ivor Callely’s political career had ground to a halt long before his conviction in Dublin Circuit Criminal Court.

But his guilty plea on charges relating to submitting false claims for mobile phone expenses was a reminder of why this particular political career was always going to end in failure.

Ivor Callely was always an anomaly in the world of politics. Though a member of Fianna Fáil for over 30 years, there was a sense that the only cause to which he gave blind and unquestioning loyalty was the advancement of Ivor Callely.

His image was a 1980s take on the mohair suit brigade of the 1960s - loud pin-stripe suits and carefully groomed hair provided his trademark look. There were the other trappings including a large house, a Range Rover, a motorboat and the palatial holiday home in West Cork.

His nickname was ‘Ivor the Driver’. It was a testament to his ambition and ego but also his energy. He was a relentless worker and, in fairness to him, annexed Clontarf for Fianna Fáil when he was at his height (it was never a traditional vote-getting area for the party).

But throughout his political career, he never gave a sense of having a point of view or a set of values – other than a general pro-business outlook. His most outspoken comments were vitriolic (and ignorant) remarks about asylum seekers in the late 1990s as well as a slightly bizarre defence of Dublin taxi drivers fighting regulation in the industry.

In an RTÉ interview in the autumn of 2005 he declared he wanted to be Taoiseach. But his ambition and ego was never accompanied by depth of thinking or any self-understanding. In truth, Callely’s great political project was Ivor Callely. Along the way, he cut corners, alienated party colleagues, muscled in on initiatives, and continued to break rules to attain his goals.

Callely was born in Dublin in 1958 and educated in St Paul’s in Raheny and Fairview College. He graduated with a diploma in business studies and worked as a representative for a pharmaceutical company. His political breakthrough came in 1985 when he was elected to Dublin City Council. Around that time he candidly, and refreshingly, described himself in non Fianna Fáil terms as a “young sexually active person.”

He made his Dáil breakthrough in 1989 when Fianna Fáil won three seats out of four in the constituency. It was an impressive performance as the then Taoiseach Charles Haughey was the dominant personality and Callely’s success was a direct challenge to the Haughey regime. There is a long-standing enmity since then between him and the Haughey.s.

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