A “sinister” attempt to “besmirch my name and blacken my character in the final days of the election campaign” is how Labour councillor Billy Cameron has described information leaked to the media over his expenses claims to the Galway City Council.
Labour councillor Billy Cameron was embroiled in controversy this week when the Irish Independent ran a story claiming that he had claimed more than €4,000 in milage expenses to conferences, despite the fact that he does not own a car and cannot drive.
The revelation could prove embarrassing or even damaging, emerging just days before the Local Elections, during a time of economic downturn, and extreme controversy over politicians’ expenses in Britain.
However Cllr Cameron is one of the most personally popular local politicians and seems to be weathering the storm well. The leaking of the information is being viewed as ‘dirty tricks’ by Labour and also outside the party.
Cllr Cameron has claimed that all his actions regarding travelling to the conferences and claiming the expenses are “perfectly legal”.
“Over five years of the council I remain at the lower end of the league table in claiming expenses,” he said. “I stand on my record of the last five years as being the positive local voice of the community, committed to hard work, and am glad to go before the public once more to seek their endorsement.”
Cllr Cameron said the Irish Independent was correct in stating he attended 13 conferences over the last two years. However he pointed out that this is lower than the average as some councillors would have attended 19.
What the Irish Independent does not state is that up to two years ago I travelled to conferences by public transport (2004 to 2007 ) and only ever claimed for the cost of public transport,” he said.
He accused the Irish Independent of being “selective in choosing the last two years of the present council”.
The article also mentioned how Cllr Cameron’s brother Jerome drove him to conferences over the last two years.
“The issue of using my brother to drive me to conferences is totally legal,” said Cllr Cameron. “I had checked out the legality of using his car and having him drive me and was assured that everything was in order. It was no inconvenience to him as it might only occur once every two months.”
Cllr Cameron said it was “sinister in the extreme” that certain opponents in Galway City Central would “attempt to besmirch my name and blacken my character”. He also said the timing of the article was “extremely suspect”.
“I would also pose the question as to why any citizen of the country should be excluded from standing in an