Belfast Telegraph

Callely statement raises questions

Ivor Callely's statement on his mobile phone expenses has provoked more questions than it answered, Taoiseach Brian Cowen has said.

The under-pressure Senator broke his silence to defend himself over fresh allegations that he had claimed allowances using invoices from a company that had gone out of business.

While Mr Callely insisted he had acted in good faith and was paying back the money received, opposition politicians have slammed the statement as lacking any credibility.

Meanwhile Mr Cowen - whose party suspended the Senator without prejudice earlier this week as it launched its own probe into the revelations - said he could not force the former junior minister to step down.

"As leader of the Fianna Fail party or as Taoiseach I'm not in a position to arrange for that to happen, it's a matter for him to consider now," he said. "I presume based on what we're going to see in the coming weeks with the committees looking at this issue, that position is going to have to be looked at by him in due course if it's warranted."

A specially convened Seanad Members' Interests Committee is set to discuss the mobile phone allegations when it meets for a private meeting. Mr Callely was suspended from the Seanad last month without pay for 20 days after an inquiry found he intentionally misrepresented where he lived for the purpose of claiming allowances worth 81,000 euro.

In the statement addressing the new allegations, the Senator claimed he had received mobile phone invoices and passed them on to the Oireachtas believing that they were accurate.

But speaking at the Tullamore Show in Co Offaly, the Taoiseach admitted Mr Callely's defence had raised more questions than it answered about the receipts. "I'm very anxious that the process that has to be pursued gives him an opportunity to put his position to the relevant committees," he added.

Green Party Senator Dan Boyle said the situation would be best served if Mr Callely resigned from the Seanad. "He hasn't clarified anything by that statement," the Senator added.

Meanwhile, Fine Gael TD Charlie Flanagan said Mr Callely had concocted a "cock and bull story". "I think he has brought disgrace on himself, on his party and on the institutions of State. The statement he made caused further damage to the Seanad and the more he tries to defend himself the more he's fanning the flames of disgrace."

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