IVOR THE INJURED; Seanad ban over expenses was unfair, says High Court.
SENATOR Ivor Callely should not have been suspended over his expenses claims, the High Court ruled yesterday.
The former Fianna Fail politician, who quit the party last year, successfully challenged the Select Committee on Members' Interests following his 20-day ban from the Upper House.
The Seanad inquiry was found to have breached the senator's right to justice and fair procedures.
Judge Iarfhlaith O'Neill found the committee did not allow the senator a reasonable opportunity to defend himself on political ethics charges. He said: "On the basis that the respondent failed to exercise their adjudicative function in an appropriate judicial manner by making a political judgment on the issues in the investigation, thereby breaching the applicants constitutional rights and fair procedures."
Mr Callely, who had a house in Clontarf, North Dublin, claimed EUR80,000 for travel from his property in Kilcrohane, West Cork, over three years.
Last July, the committee found he misrepresented his normal place of residence when claiming expenses.
Mr Callely took a case to the High Court in a bid to quash the findings of the investigation and overturn his ban, without pay, from the Seanad.
The judge said this was the first time a member of the Oireachtas had come to the High Court to challenge a decision of a Seanad committee.
He found the senator was right to take the case to court as his only other route of appeal was through the Oireachtas system which punished him. The judge ruled the committee's decision did not mention a contravention of a political ethic, but instead stated he had misrepresented his place of residence.
He added: "That is what the determination says and that is how it was clearly understood in the media and by the public and that clear message comprehensively destroyed the plaintiff's good name."
Mr Callely's solicitor Noel O'Hanrahan said: "Ivor Callely, his wife and family have suffered greatly from having been places in the glare of the media with attendant adverse, unfair and defamatory comments from some sections of the media."
Mr O'Hanrahan refused to comment on any issue of damages.
In a statement, the Select Committee on Members' Interests of Seanad Eireann said it would consider the High Court judgment in detail at a meeting of the committee scheduled for next Wednesday.
RULING Former FF politician Ivor Callely