Court orders Senator to show more detailed statement of means in debt case

February 20, 2019

A Judge has asked for a detailed statement of means from a Co Donegal senator who has appeared in court on foot of an instalment order application.

Independent Senator Brian O Domhnaill appeared at Falcarragh District Court where an application was made to determine how much the politician can pay on a debt.

The application was made by solicitor Rory O’Brien instructed by A&L Goodbody Solicitors on behalf of the Standards in Public Office (SIPO).

It follows two separate applications by SIPO after High Court orders for costs were given in a previous case.

The case arose after SIPO found Senator O’Domhnaill had wrongly claimed expenses of around €2,000 when he was a Fianna Fáil Donegal County Councillor during 2006/7 on foot of an anonymous complaint to Donegal County Council.

The State ethics watchdog found Mr Ó Domhnaill intentionally broke ethics legislation after he claimed expenses from two separate bodies for the same trip.

The Senator was found to have breached ethics rules by the Standards in Public Office Commission after claiming expenses from both Donegal County Council and Údarás na Gaeltachta on three occasions in 2006.

He claimed hundreds of euro in travel and subsistence for attending the events which took place simultaneously but which were hundreds of kilometres apart.

It cost SIPO in excess of €360,000 to investigate the matter in which Senator O’Domhnaill denied any wrongdoing.

Most of the costs relate to High Court and Court of Appeal hearings connected to the case and for translation services. SIPO won its claim for costs.

In 2016 the Gortahork based senator resigned from Fianna Fáil and is now and Independent senator.

Defence solicitor Kieran Haran claimed the application was vexatious by bringing it before the local court in his area.

He said his client was looking for a period of time to deal with the matter through an insolvency practitioner.

“This is vexatious in the first instance. A judgement is in place. Any other judgement against any other person would be allowed to go through process.

“Why would Mr O’Domhnaill be any different. The aim is to bring it before the court in his local area. He is in quite a lot of debt because of this but it is not his only debt,” Mr Harron added.

However, Mr O’Brien pointed out that the application was brought in the court area where Mr O Domhnaill resides and was being made on foot of the High Court orders.

He added that SIPO was not consenting to an adjournment as this avenue had been explored before and rejected.

Mr O Domhnaill was in the vicinity of the court but did not come into the courtroom for the hearing.

Judge Paul Kelly asked to see Mr O Domhnaill’s statement of means.

Having viewed the file he noted that the contents of the statement of means were “sparse.”

He asked Mr Haran: “What can your client afford? On the face of it does not look like there is a lot there,” Judge Kelly asked referring to the statement of means.”

Mr Harron told him some of the larger debts could be dealt with as there were two investment properties.

Judge Kelly added “The difficulty is that his statement of means is very sparse. In the absence of a more detailed statement, it will be difficult for the court to deal with it.

“He would need to be a lot more forthcoming with the various statements in the statement of means.”

He adjourned the case until March 25 for a full statement of means.