KILMACRENNAN based Councillor John O’Donnell has accused national broadcaster RTE of “deception” and “tricking” him into engaging with a company purporting to have plans to build windfarms in Donegal.
The Independent Councillor is to feature in tonight’s Prime Time investigation on RTE 1 at 9.30pm.
The programme is understood to feature a small number of Donegal politicians and examines the adherence of public representatives to ethics legislation.
In a statement issued to the Donegal News this morning, in advance of tonight’s programme, Cllr O’Donnell said he had been contacted on November 3 in his capacity as a businessman and local representative “by a lady who told me that her name was Nina Carlsson”.
He said he understood from Ms Carlsson that he was being contacted, “primarily, in my capacity as a businessman and, secondly, in my capacity as a public representative”.
Cllr O’Donnell added: “My clear understanding was that the so-called ‘Vinst Opportunities’ whom Ms Carlsson purported to represent were looking to invest “millions” in Donegal and that they would be incurring expenditure of between €25 to €30 million per wind energy site identified for development”.
The statement continued:
“Firstly, I would like to state that I was shocked and disappointed to learn of the deception that has been visited upon me by the means of a person who turns out to be an undercover reporter for the RTE Investigations Unit, falsely signifying to me that she was a representative of a foreign investment vehicle that was considering investing “millions” in County Donegal on behalf of several investors, when, in fact, the investment vehicle in question was a fiction conceived by the RTE Investigations Unit with the clear intent of tricking me as both a businessman and a local representative in Donegal.
“Secondly, I take grave exception to the clear effort of RTE to mislead me into engaging in behaviour that they describe as being potentially “inconsistent with proper performance” of my “functions” as “a county councillor of Donegal County Council”, and with the consequential wasting of my time, when I attended for what I assumed would be a serious business meeting on 5th November, 2015 at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Letterkenny, and one that I had every reason to believe could potentially be of significant benefit for the county, of which I have been very proud, as a Donegal man, to represent since my election as an independent local councillor in May 2014. I take very seriously my role as a public representative, having entered local politics with a view to seeking to bring my business experience, in particular to the Council for the purpose of improving the local Donegal economy for the benefit of all who reside in the county. Moreover, in my opinion, the people of my constituency know my background and the work that I do and voted me onto the County Council as an independent against all the big parties, such that I was elected to the second seat out of ten in my area, notwithstanding that it was the first time that I ran for the position.
“To say therefore, that I am disappointed by the underhand behaviour of the national broadcaster in this matter would be a gross understatement of my view of RTE’s efforts to unsuccessfully entrap me into improper behaviour by dangling in front of me the prospect of a massive, but regrettably wholly fictitious, investment in the local economy. It beggars belief that RTE/Vinst Opportunities stated they were aiming to identify wind opportunities in Ireland for its investors when it was a pure sham whose investors appear to be nothing more than the clearly over-fertile imaginations of the members of the RTE Investigations Unit. It is of little comfort to County Donegal, which has huge unemployment and virtually no industry, that the national broadcaster sanctions so-called ‘undercover’ reporters to come to the county to dissimulate to local public representatives that there might be large-scale investment in the local economy. Perhaps it would be better use of the public’s resources to programme some of the positive features of the County to assist in generating economic interest in the region.
“I would add that, since being elected, any motion that I have put forward at local authority level, or any motion that I supported, has been done only in the public interest and same was of no benefit to me personally or to any of my business interests. I have furnished to RTE a full copy of all motions brought by me to support this position.
“Furthermore I would like to record, I am wholly supportive of any inward investment opportunity for County Donegal, and will work tirelessly to ensure that the right projects, where they are genuine rather than purely fictional (as with the sham that is Vinst Opportunities), materialise. As a businessman, I am also open to real opportunity, but any eventual participation by me in same would always be completed strictly in accordance with the guidelines and any obligations that pertain to me as a local public representative under and pursuant, in particular, to Part 15 of the Local Government Act 2001.
“In particular, I am satisfied that I have at all times complied with my obligations under the said Part 15 of the 2001 Act, and especially under section 168 of the same Act, which sets out the general standard of integrity, whereunder it is the duty of (among others) county councillors to “maintain proper standards of integrity, conduct and concern for the public interest”. Furthermore, I have at all times complied, and continue to comply with my obligations under section 170(1) of the 2001 Act, which specifically excludes (among others) county councillors from seeking, exacting or accepting “any remunerations, fee, reward or other favour for anything done or not done by virtue of his membership of office.”
“I reserve all of my legal rights in relation to this matter, and in particular to seek damages from RTE for my financial losses. Furthermore the deception of Ms Carlsson, authorised by RTE, coupled with their refusal to furnish me with copies of the unauthorised and, in my view, illegal filming and recording of the meeting flagrantly breached and continues to breach my right to privacy. I intend to raise this matter with the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner, whilst reserving all of my legal rights to sue RTE for breach of my constitutional and EU law rights to privacy.
The statement concluded: “As the matter is currently with my legal team I will not be making any further comment until the legal process has concluded.