Callely legal challenge will be heard in Oct

Tuesday 07 September 2010 22.05
Ivor Callely - Suspended for 20 days from the Seanad
Ivor Callely - Suspended for 20 days from the Seanad

Senator Ivor Callely's legal challenge to the Committee that suspended him from the Seanad is expected to be heard at the beginning of next month.

Mr Justice Sean Ryan said he could not see any possibility of the challenge being heard and judgment being given before the Seanad resumes at the end of September.

The judge said the case raised issues of real importance that had not been ventilated in court before and it would be unwise to rush the matter.

He said he expected the case would go ahead before the President of the High Court on 4 October.

Earlier, lawyers for Senator Callely told the High Court that he has not had a day's peace since the Seanad Committee on Members' Interests made findings against him.

The Court was told that the Committee portrayed Senator Callely as 'a pariah' who had ripped off the State to the sum of €80,000, and as 'a chancer', 'a rogue', and 'thoroughly despicable'.

Senator Callely is challenging the investigation of the Committee, its subsequent report, and its decision to suspend him for 20 days.

During July the committee suspended Mr Callely without pay after an investigation it carried out concluded he had misrepresented his place of residence for the purpose of claiming allowances.

Subsequent allegations about the senator's expense claims also prompted Fianna Fáil to launch an internal investigation.

The senator later resigned from the party, claiming he had been denied fair procedures.

Mr Callely says his claim for expenses from his house at Kilcrohane in west Cork was validly made under the definition of a member's 'normal place of residence'.

He says that under a definition by the Department of Finance, which was supplied to him, this normal place of residence did not necessarily have to be a permanent, principal abode, but had to be a premises that was used for a lengthy period and went beyond mere shelter or passage - such as a few nights in a hotel.

Senator Callely also says that he wrote to the Members' Interests Committee himself when his circumstances changed and he began spending more time in Dublin.

He said he wanted his claim to accurately reflect his travel but he was told that it was not possible to change in the course of a year.

Senator Callely says the Committee confused the meaning of the definition of a senator's normal place of residence.

He also says that a member of the committee, Senator Joe O'Toole, simply refused outright to apply this definition and that Senator O'Toole also claimed this was all 'an elaborate scheme to avoid paying capital gains tax' on any sale of the Cork home.

Senator Callely is seeking permission from the High Court to take judicial review proceedings against the Members' Interests Committee.

Lawyers for the Committee asked the High Court if the challenge could be heard before the Seanad is due to resume at the end of this month.

Senior Counsel Gerry Hogan said it would be very unsatisfactory if Senator Callely received permission from the Court to challenge the Committee's report and decision, and was then prevented from continuing its investigations into the Senator.

He said Senator Callely would then be able to partake in the Seanad in the ordinary way and this would be very destructive of the disciplinary procedures which are in place.