Callely says he will co-operate with inquiry into expenses


SEANAD REPORT:FIANNA FÁIL Senator Ivor Callely said he was prepared to submit to an investigation by the Seanad Select Committee on Members’ Interests over how he had claimed Oireachtas expenses.

While the expenses regime was complex and contained many anomalies, he understood that he had “complied with regulations”.

He would co-operate fully with the committee, and he looked forward to a speedy and satisfactory conclusion to the matter.

Mr Callely said he, like others, was deeply upset and concerned at the media presentation of his expenses and the negative complexion this had put on him, on the House and on the profession of politics. He recognised the difficulties this matter has caused, and was prepared to co-operate to satisfactorily address all issues.

“As this matter is complex and there is a full file of documents that clearly indicate my position from the time of my appointment to Seanad Éireann up to the present day, I am most respectfully requesting that I be afforded the opportunity to go before the Select Committee on Members’ Interests and submit myself to their investigation into this matter and their assessment of any wrong-doing, if any.

“The original media story was based on FoI requests, which in their published form do not give the full picture. I am satisfied that the select committee should consider all documents relating to my file in order to enable them to obtain the full facts of this case.

“ I have always indicated that I have a west Cork residence, a Clontarf home and a constituency office in Dublin North Central, and travel from all three, depending on circumstances, to fulfil my Seanad duties. I understand that I have complied with regulations.”

He had raised with the Oireachtas the anomalies that existed in the expenses regime, which he believed warranted consideration.

Speaking before Mr Callely’s statement, Eugene Regan (FG) said: “I think what you have here is an issue of alleged fraud which was highlighted in the Sunday Independent article on this matter. I think we will be judged in this House, not about this incident per se but how we deal with the incident and how we deal with that allegation. It is absolutely critical that there is full and detailed examination of this issue.”

Joe O’Toole (Ind), also speaking before Mr Callely’s statement, said he wanted the committee to deal with all the unanswered questions and concerns; to explain any mistakes or incorrect claims; if appropriate, to calculate precisely and put on the record the quantum of over-payments; to recognise the damage to politics and to the House; and to also provide details on the redress proposed by the senator.

Consideration should be given to following the American example of rewarding whistle-blowers, Feargal Quinn (Ind) suggested. The US Senate had recently passed a bill to compensate whistle-blowers or those who reported fraudulent or corrupt activities by their employers. The availability of such a system here might tip the balance for those people who had doubts about reporting financial wrong-doing.

While it was to be welcomed that the Minister for Justice had indicated that whistle-blowing protection was to be included in new anti-corruption legislation, what was really needed, as Senator Shane Ross (Ind) had pointed out, was a separate enactment to provide such protection.

David Norris (Ind) stressed the need to introduce legislation along the lines of that which had been working successfully in the UK for the last 10 years. A niece of his in a school for special children was assumed to have reported certain bad practices to the HSE. Even as he spoke, she was probably in floods of tears in that school in Dublin because she was being punished for being a whistle-blower.