Healy-Rae: 'I am paying other people's phone bills'

Kerry South TD Michael Healy-Rae said he is "the only person in Ireland that’s paying for other people’s phone bills" as he announced today that he intends to pay back €2,600 in costs incurred by the taxpayer as a result of calls to premium rate phone lines from Leinster House.

This lunchtime Mr Healy-Rae stressed he did not owe the Houses of the Oireachtas anything, insisting he made no phone calls.

“Every person who made those phone calls, I’m paying for every one of their phone calls now,” the Kerry South TD said.

“I’m the only person in Ireland that’s paying for other people’s phone bills.”

Ceann Comhairle Sean Barrett in a statement welcomed the fact that Deputy Healy-Rae "had committed to paying €2,600 in relation to costs incurred" by the telephone calls.

However, Mr Barrett said he still intends to raise the matter at the meeting of the Oireachtas Committee on Procedures and Privileges next week.

Deputy Healy-Rae added: “I’m a good honest, hard working politician.

“I want to be allowed to continue with that job and I cannot if this is hanging out there, and if people are going to be saying, well will the money be paid or won’t the money be paid.

“I don’t owe the money, but there’s nobody else going to come along as far as I can see and say they’re going to pay it.”

The Kerry South TD has been in hot water this week after it was revealed that over 3,600 telephone votes cast in his favour during 2007 reality show 'Celebrities Go Wild' originated in the Dáil.

Mr Healy-Rae was a Kerry county councillor and mayor of the county when he took part in the RTÉ show in 2007, broadcast in aid of People in Need.

Eight celebrities, including the late model Katy French, were forced to shun modern living for a week-long trek through Connemara.

Some 3,636 calls were made from Leinster House to a premium rate 1513 number, leaving the taxpayer to foot the bill - Deputy Healy-Rae won the show.

It was revealed this week that the Oireachtas had written to Micheal Healy-Rae's father, then deputy Jackie Healy-Rae, seeking an explanation for the calls. However, none was forthcoming and Mr Healy-Rae Snr has declined to comment on the furore.

Mr Healy-Rae again claimed he had nothing to do with the calls, but said he was paying the bill to end the controversy.

“I know this will not stop and it will take the media concentration away from what they should be concentrating on and that is the enormous problems that we have in this country,” he said.

Mr Healy-Rae said his father could not explain how it happened.

Mr Healy-Rae denied he was trying to close down an investigation by offering to refund the money, but claimed a probe should be extended to cover the entire usage of phones at Leinster House.

“I have no problem in the world with any investigation. Out of all the people in the country, the one person who couldn’t have done this is myself,” the Kerry South TD said.

“If things are going to be investigated the whole use of phones in the Houses of the Oireachtas should be looked into and checked.

“Because again, other people did whatever they did and they should answer for it.”

Taoiseach Enda Kenny had earlier called for the money to be repaid.

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