Belfast Telegraph

TD denies wrongdoing over calls

Independent TD Michael Healy-Rae has insisted his conscience is clear amid claims he won a reality TV show thanks to 3,636 votes from a Dail telephone.

The repeated calls to a premium line in 2007 secured his victory in RTE's Celebrities Go Wild and left the taxpayer to foot a bill of 2,639 euro.

Mr Healy-Rae, son of former TD Jackie Healy-Rae who represented Kerry South at the time, stressed he had nothing to do with the calls.

"My conscience is perfectly clear in this," the Kerry politician said. "Everybody knows what I was doing for that week and for anybody to insinuate that I had anything to do with organising this, they would be wronging me because I didn't."

Mr Healy-Rae was a Kerry county councillor and mayor of the county when he took part in the RTE show, broadcast in aid of People in Need.

Eight celebrities, including the late model Katy French, were forced to shun modern living for a week-long trek through Connemara.

The Houses of the Oireachtas said it became aware of a spike in phone connections to a premium-rate 1513 number and subsequently blocked any further calls.

Mr Healy-Rae claimed he could not have had anything to do with it. "If I did, how could I?," he asked. "I didn't have a mobile, I had no access. It would have been impossible for me to be able to do something like that."

The Oireachtas said it could not trace the person responsible as specific calls are not recorded. "Members are entitled, as a matter of law, to free telephone calls from Leinster House," a statement said. "We have no system for linking individual calls or classes of calls with individual members, ie we do not record or log members' calls and have no way of stating whether any member was responsible for making or mandating particular calls or classes of calls."

Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore said if telephone facilities at Leinster House were found to be used inappropriately the money should be refunded.

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