Claim allegations against Senator re-emerge

The allegations that have led to Donegal County Council investigating allegations of double-claims against Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill first emerged over six months ago.

The allegations that have led to Donegal County Council investigating allegations of double-claims against Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill first emerged over six months ago.

The claims that have been queried relate to journeys the former councillor made to five conferences on behalf of the council between March 2006 and July 2007, and his attendance at six Údarás na Gaeltachta events during the same period.

The senator’s council claims amount to a total of €1,492.8 in travel expenses, €1,424.34 in subsistence, and €1,029 in conference fees. His claims to Udaras na Gaeltachta amount to €1,635.01 in mileage and €863.10 in subsistence.

An individual provided photocopies of the claim forms to the Democrat newspapers last year. The individual did not offer his or her name, but the Democrat newspapers were later able to verify the documents independently, with the county council and Údarás na Gaeltachta. [It is understood that the individual who provided the Democrat with copies of the former councillor’s expense claims obtained them through Freedom of Information requests.]

At the time the information was made public last May, the senator told the Democrat newspapers that he “could stand over any expense claims that he has made”.

The Donegal Democrat also investigated the matter at the time and concluded that the allegations against the senator were misleading and false.

The Democrat received further detail on the claims later in the year from an anonymous source. It is understood this information was passed to a councillor from a third party, and the councillor brought it to the attention of the County Manager.

Donegal County Council was asked by the Democrat on December 15 whether it had received information relating to expenses claims from made by the former councillor. The council did not issue a response until last Thursday.

It is further understood that the senator has been asked by the council to explain some of the claims. Despite several attempts by the Democrat to contact the senator, he did not respond to written questions the Democrat sent him asking for clarification of the further detail.

However, speaking to the Democrat at a public event before Christmas Senator Ó Domhnaill said he had received legal advice that prevented him from commenting on the matter.

Senator Ó Domhnaill received €4,666.46 in travel and subsistence expenses from Donegal County Council in 2006 on top of a total of €10,572.24 in monthly allowances. For the same year he also received a strategic policy committee allowance of €5,513.20 and a representational payment of €15,806.08. In 2007, he received a total monthly allowance of €5,661.91 for the year; travel and subsistence claims of €3,344.46; and a representational payment of €7,720.52.

The council confirmed last week that it has received details of expenses the Fianna Fáil politician claimed from the council and Údarás na Gaeltachta in 2006 and 2007.

In a statement the council said “the matter is being processed in accordance with relevant provisions of Part 15 of the Local Government Act”.

In a statement issued through the Fianna Fáil press office Senator Ó Domhnaill said: “I welcome this investigation. There is absolutely no foundation to any of the allegations made. I look forward to the council’s findings, which I am confident will finally put an end to this political smear campaign.”