THE Standards in Public Office (SIPO) commission yesterday began a hearing into allegations Donegal Fianna Fáil Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill claimed expenses for different events which took place at the same time.
Mr Ó Domhnaill is under investigation for expenses claims made in 2006, prior to his appointment to the Seanad, when he was then a member of Donegal County Council and Údarás na Gaeltachta.
Mr Ó Domhnaill is alleged to have claimed for different events during the same period.
He also sought travel and subsistence from Údarás na Gaeltachta for a Donegal Sports Partnership meeting in Letterkenny, Co Donegal on March 10th 2006.
Luán Ó Braonáin, barrister representing SIPO, said this was a breach of the Local Government Act.
Mr Ó Braonain said the Commission needed to decide whether this was done inadvertently, neglectfully, recklessly or done with intent.
The barrister said the members of SIPO need to make a decision on whether Mr Ó Domhnaill made the claims without knowledge, whether he failed to do what he ought to do, whether he consciously disregarded his duty or he did it with a view to a certain result.
The commission received a complaint from the then Mayor of Donegal County Council on May 28th, 2012 after a letter from a ‘concerned citizen’ enclosed materials to the claims.
SIPO sought to have a public hearing in March 2013, but it was delayed due to a High Court case taken by Mr Ó Domhnaill.
However, the High Court rejected the claim by M r Ó Domhnaill, who then appealed that decision to the Court of Appeal.
Mr Ó Braonáin said this had concluded in March 2016 and had caused a delay of up to three years.
Senior counsel, Seamus Ó Tuathail, representing Mr Ó Domhnaill, said the complaints were based on anonymous information circulated to councillors in Donegal.
The hearing was told the allegations were a “false and malicious attack” on Mr Ó Domhnaill and they would make no apology for contesting them in the courts.
The Commission is to issue its findings at a later date.
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