President invites shamed Callely to reception at Aras
PRESIDENT Mary McAleese has invited shamed senator Ivor Callely to Aras an Uachtarain tomorrow night.
The outrageous invitation is likely to inflame public anger, coming as it does just before his 20-day suspension from the Seanad is due to start.
The senator received the invitation long after news of his allegedly dodgy travel expenses was made public.
Mr Callely is one of a number of senators who have been invited to a reception to meet the President.
The Seanad returns from its summer break on Wednesday, when Mr Callely's suspension is due to begin.
It is understood an invitation was sent to Mr Callely to attend, despite the controversy surrounding his expenses claims and legal challenges.
However, political experts said it would be embarrassing for the President and awkward for fellow senators if he were to attend.
The senator is currently suing the seven senators of the Seanad Committee on Members Interests for suspending him for 20 days without pay.
He had been asked to explain his €81,015 travel expenses and why he claimed for the 370km journey between Leinster House and his property in Kilcrohane, west Cork, instead of from his property in Clontarf, Dublin, over a two-year period.
The senator, who has resigned the Fianna Fail whip, has insisted he had acted honestly and in good faith.
The High Court is today expected to set a date for a full hearing into Mr Callely's right to take the case against the Committee members.
His colleagues were divided today on whether the senator will turn up for the Aras reception tomorrow night.
Mr Callely was unavailable for comment on whether he and his wife Jennifer would attend.
A spokesman for the President said the Aras did not comment on individuals.
Fianna Fail Senator Donie Cassidy, the leader of the Seanad, has declined to comment on the possibility of Mr Callely being at the reception.
"All the Senate has been invited to the Aras. Two-thirds of the members have never met with the President in Aras an Uachtarain," he said.
"We are looking forward to enjoying the company of the President," he added.
One Fianna Fail senator said he expected Mr Callely to show up, especially after he attended an Oireachtas committee last week.
"He would have been invited. The President could not differentiate. He certainly will be there. The invite was sent out about a week ago," he said.
But another Fianna Fail colleague said Mr Callely would be well aware of the potential for embarrassment and would stay away.