A Fine Gael councillor in Monaghan, Hugh McElvaney has been filmed while appearing to demand ten thousand pounds sterling from a fake international company for his support in gaining planning permission for a proposed wind farm, while two other local councillors were also recorded agreeing to assist the firm in return for side deals.
The recordings took place earlier this year as part of an RTE television documentary. All three have denied any wrongdoing, but the controversy has again brought attention to the brazen nature of corruption at local council level.
Donegal Independent John O’Donnell was recorded saying he would be paid for this work through another person, while Sligo Fianna Fáil representative Joe Queenan agreed to help while asking for an “investment” in his own business ideas.
But most direct was McElvaney (pictured), who within minutes of chatting to bosses of the fake Icelandic firm, was asking, “What’s in it for me? What are you putting on the table for me?”
And without discussing any fine details of the business, the man regarded as one of the most senior Fine Gael councillors was asking: “Are you going to pay me by the hour or by the job?”
‘LOADS OF MONEY’
The former official said he was looking for “loads of money” in return for helping the fake business. “The more that is in the bag the keener I will be,” he said. He has since claimed he was not seeking any corrupt payments, and that he was “taking the p*ss”.
RTE also set up a meeting with Fianna Fail’s Joe Queenan at Sligo Council, again proposing he help the fake firm in the pre-planning stages.
In turn, Queenan proposes the fake wind-farm firm invest up to 200,000 euro for his future business plans. He was secretly recorded asking for strict confidence about his meeting and said: “I don’t want to read this in the f*****g media.”
Queenan this week resigned from Fianna Fáil, insisting through his lawyer that he was “not corrupt”.
Independent councillor John O’Donnell for Donegal Council was also contacted by the fake company, and agreed to a meeting about helping lobby for the windfarm. The 34-year-old was filmed asking to be paid via a third party. In his response to the Primetime investigation Mr O’Donnell said any references to payments were made “on the basis that, I as a businessman, might be participating in any project that materialised from work”.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny said the alleged corruption was “utterly unacceptable” and had “no place in public life”. He said: “Public representatives are required to comply fully with the codes of conduct governing their duties”, responding to a question from Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams.
Mr Adams highlighted the RTE disclosures as evidence Kenny’s administration had done little to crack down on misconduct in public life. He also warned planned new regulatory measures lacked independence.
“You have had five years to deal with this Taoiseach - five wasted years,” said Mr Adams.
In parliament this week, Kenny’s government coincidentally voted down an effort to create an Independent Anti-Corruption Agency. Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy said the lack of consequences for politicians who commit wrongdoing “absolutely drives people nuts”.
The government has insisted that legislation to establish a new Public Sector Standards Commissioner will be considered by cabinet next week, but that it would be “ambitious” to expect it to be enacted in the lifetime of this government.
Gerry Adams said his party had legislation ready to go to establish an independent planning regulator. He called on the government to allow time for it to proceed before the election is called.
“Enda Kenny promised a democratic revolution. He hasn’t delivered it.
“Not only has he failed to deal with the issue of political corruption, his government has actively refused to touch the issue and even went as far as to cancel inquiries which were established by the previous government into planning corruption.”
Mr Adams pointed to a litany of recent legislation on ethics in public life, all of which remain untested as state authorities have avoided dealing with the issue and the issue of white collar crime generally.
It was recently revealed that many files sent to the bureau of fraud investigation are not even read and that, of those considered, just one in ten results in a prosecution. In contrast, the law has continued to fall heavily on those perceived to be challenging the political establishment.
This week a Cork mother who has fought to defend indebted home-owners was jailed for failing to comply with bank demands for the repossession of her own family home, just two weeks before Christmas.
And two left-wing TDs, Clare Daly and Mick Wallace were also hauled off to Limerick jail for non-payment of fines arising from an anti-war protest, before being released hours later, due to overcrowding at the jail. It is understood the pair can be re-arrested any time in the next 30 days.
Ms Daly described their treatment as “utter lunacy”.
“It’s a waste of Garda resources, it’s a waste of prison staff resources and this Government has sat on its hands in terms of bringing in a serious alternative,” she said. “Which is nothing got to do with us today, it’s a far bigger problem than that.”