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Shamed Callely banned from US election junket at taxpayers' expense

DISGRACED Ivor Callely has had his wings clipped as the Government moved to scupper his plans to sting taxpayers for a trip to the US.

The embattled senator was hoping to represent Ireland as an observer at the mid-term election in the United States -- despite serving a suspension from the Seanad.

Mr Callely was invited to go on the junket because of his position on the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).

However, it would have clashed with his 20-day suspension from the Seanad that was imposed because of his inappropriate travel expenses.

Following the imposition of that suspension, Mr Callely wrote to Oireachtas officials asking if he was still allowed to travel in November.

The initial indication from the Oireachtas was that he would be able to head up an Irish delegation -- but the Government chief whip last night scuppered those plans.



PROTOCOL

Taxpayers would have been hit for the cost of flights and accommodation as well as any other expenses the senator might have incurred.

However, a spokesperson for chief whip John Curran said that he would be over-ruling normal protocol.

"He's been removed from that position and won't be travelling," the spokesperson said.

"All future OSCE engagements will be fulfilled by the new appointee to the Irish delegation or other members of the delegation.

"The Government has removed Mr Callely from the Irish delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the OSCE." The move means that the troubled politician will also miss out on the opportunity to attend elections in Bosnia Herzegovina in October.

The Clontarf politician has been kicked out of Fianna Fail because of behaviour "unbecoming of a member", although Taoiseach Brian Cowen says he has no power to permanently remove him from the Seanad.

His financial affairs have been under close scrutiny since it emerged that he claimed nearly €81,000 in travel expenses from a holiday home in west Cork to Leinster House.

A Seanad committee is also investigating allegations that he used forged receipts to claim nearly €3,000 for mobile phones and a separate complaint about his property interests.

He was allowed to attend an OSCE meeting in Oslo last month but the Government has now moved to insure that his travel -- and expenses -- are as limited as possible.

Fine Gael whip Maurice Cummins last night claimed that senators and taxpayers would not have put up with Mr Callely travelling again.

"If he's suspended without pay, that should extend to any duty in the political system," he said.

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