DONEGAL County Council has confirmed it will examine as a matter “of urgency and priority” issues raised in last night’s RTE Investigates programme.
Three politicians, including Kilmacrennan-based Councillor John O’Donnell, appeared to offer to lobby on behalf of a wind farm company in exchange for money or the promise of a loan or an investment in a private business.
They all agreed to work secretly on behalf of a fictitious company, which was created as part of a major investigation by RTÉ into serious conflicts of interest in local and national politics. Cllr O’Donnell (34) requested that all money be routed through a third party.
“Politically there would be a backlash,” he said, “you know the way people are … so many begrudgers out there.” He did not hesitate when asked to meet with the ‘company.’
“I am a developer myself,” he said. “I am a business man. I am not a negative person. I like to see things going forward, progress, like … and eh … there’s some members of Donegal County Council who would be the completely opposite.”
Cllr O’Donnell’s declarations of interest have also not been entirely upfront. Separately, on five occasions in the past four years, his companies have appeared on the Revenue’s tax defaulter lists for under-declaring income and using unmarked diesel.
This morning, a spokesperson for the council said, in light of the content of the programme, it wishes to confirm that the matters raised are being examined as an issue of urgency and priority. “This examination is being conducted in the first instance by the Ethics Registrar in the Council, the spokesperson said.
“The examination will be conducted in accordance with the provisions of Part 15 of the Local Government Act, 2001 – Ethical Framework for the Local Government Service, and the Code of Conduct for Councillors, and any matters arising from this examination will be processed in line with the provisions as set down. “Pending the conclusion of this examination, the Council will not be making any further statements at this time.”
Meanwhile, RTE has dismissed claims by Cllr O’Donnell that it was guilty of “deception” and “tricking” him.
“The RTE Investigations Unit was very careful to act with integrity at all times in the production of this programme,” its spokesperson said.
“RTE’s legal affairs department has scrutinised the conversations carefully and, both legally and editorially, RTE is entirely satisfied that we acted appropriately and in the public interest. This programme performs an important public service to the people of Donegal and the people of Ireland in revealing the conflicts of interest that Cllr O’Donnell and others are willing to entertain in the performance of their public duties.”
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