'If Callely was on the dole, he'd cough up'

Wed, May 23, 2012, 01:00

SEANAD:MARIE MOLONEY (Lab) demanded to know why social welfare recipients were treated differently to a former minister and senator when it came to refunding mistaken overpayments.

She said she had been disgusted to read in the newspapers that Ivor Callely was unlikely to be pursued for the €6,000 he had been overpaid in expenses.

It had been reported, said Ms Moloney, that there was no legal basis on which to pursue him for the money because the error had been made by the Department of Transport.

She said she was dealing day-in-day-out with social welfare recipients who had been overpaid in the same way. They were pursued for every last penny by the Department of Social Protection.

“Why in the name of all that is good could they not take the money out of his pension?” she asked.

Seanad leader Maurice Cummins (FG) said he would relay the Senator’s comments to Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar.

Government Chief Whip Paul Coghlan (FG) wondered about the “stupidity” of social welfare recipients voting against the fiscal treaty. He noted that party colleague Fidelma Healy-Eames had referred to the number of people on welfare who had told her they would be voting No.

She had contended that those people were totally disregarding the need for the insurance policy that the treaty represented.

David Norris (Ind) asked if social welfare recipients did not have the right to participate in a free ballot.

Mr Coghlan said they obviously did. “I acknowledge their right to do wrong, if that is their wish,” he added. “I am just talking about the stupidity of it, as I see it.”

Opposition leader Darragh O’Brien (FF) asked why Mr Coghlan was singling out social welfare recipients.

Mr Coghlan replied: “There are others, too.”