Former Donegal Senator settles €400,000 legal costs case with SIPO

March 2, 2023

Former Donegal Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill has come to a final settlement with the Standards in Public Office Commission over legal costs of €400,000 owed to them, according to Nuacht TG4.

The amount of money that Mr Ó Domhnaill has paid will not be divulged publicly and SIPO say that it is a normal procedure to come to such an arrangement.

Most of the costs incurred by SIPO relate to two legal challenges taken by former Fianna Fail Senator Ó Domhnaill.

The State’s ethics watchdog paid out a total of €455,000 investigating allegations of duplication of expenses by former Donegal politician, who was an elected board member of Údarás na Gaeltachta as well as a member of Donegal County Council.

In December 2016 SIPO ruled that Mr Ó Domhnaill had intentionally broken ethics legislation after he claimed expenses from the two separate bodies on three occasions in 2006.

In each instance hundreds of euro in travel and subsistence were claimed for attendance at events taking place simultaneously hundreds of kilometres apart.

In March 2006, Mr Ó Domhnaill travelled from his home in An Fál Carrach, Co Donegal to Dundalk for a three-day conference but returned to Letterkenny on the second day for a meeting of the Donegal Sports Partnership, at which he represented Údáras na Gaeltachta.

He claimed almost €642 from Donegal County Council and just under €93 from Údáras na Gaeltachta.

In April 2006, he travelled to Carrickmacross for a two-day training seminar, returning to Letterkenny on the second day for another Donegal Sports Partnership meeting.

In May 2006, he travelled to a two-day tourism conference in Carlingford, Co Louth but left for a Donegal Sports Partnership event in An Clochán Liath on the second day.

He claimed over €680 from the Council and just over €83 euro from Údáras na Gaeltachta.

Mr Ó Domhnaill resigned from Fianna Fáil, after he was found to have breached ethics legislation.

Most of the costs incurred by SIPO stem from two legal challenges taken by former Senator Ó Domhnaill.

He took a case in the High Court in an effort to ensure the hearing by Sipo would be bilingual and would be conducted without the assistance of an interpreter.

He appealed the High Court ruling against him and claimed the investigation should not take place until the rules of the Court of Appeal were made available in Irish.

Sipo said the costs in the case of former Senator Ó Domhnaill were for professional legal fees, translation, legal counsel, stenographers, and court fees.

They have now confirmed that they came to a final settlement with Mr Ó Domhnaill in 2021 in relation to the legal costs incurred.

In a statement to Nuacht TG4 this afternoon SIPO said that “Orders of the Superior Courts for legal costs do not generally specify amounts, which are often subject to subsequent negotiation between the parties and legal costs adjudication. SIPO manages legal claims and counterclaims (including the enforcement of orders for legal costs) in a fair and ethical manner so as to ensure that the Commission’s liability and the expenses incurred are contained at the lowest achievable level.”