Sunday 25 September 2016

Perry claims may haunt Fine Gael as focus turns to role of councillor

Published 30/07/2016 | 02:30

John Perry at Leinster House Photo: Tom Burke
John Perry at Leinster House Photo: Tom Burke

It's been just over seven months since Fine Gael settled a high-profile court case with former minister John Perry.

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After six days of drama in the High Court, the party conceded defeat in a move that is believed to have cost it in the region of €500,000.

The decision to settle came after Mr Perry's legal team got hold of a letter sent by Fine Gael general secretary Tom Curran, in which he voiced grave concerns about the selection convention which resulted in Mr Perry losing out on a place on the General Election ticket.

In the letter - which is central to this intriguing story - Mr Curran described the organisation of the convention as "chaotic" and plagued by a "catalogue" of mistakes, which "drained people's competency in the returning officer".

Despite harbouring these concerns, Mr Curran and Fine Gael went ahead anyway with the case, which Mr Perry won.

He was added to the ticket but subsequently lost his seat in the election and returned to life as an ordinary shopkeeper.

Fine Gael, meanwhile, returned to government, albeit as a slimmed-down party.

But if Fine Gael bosses thought that such a costly settlement would bring the matter to a close, they were sorely mistaken.

The publication of Mr Perry's letter by this newspaper last week caused consternation within the party and raised serious questions about the future of Mr Curran, who is one of Enda Kenny's closest aides.

Mr Perry makes a catalogue of allegations but two in particular stand out.

The first is that a party representative was put under "considerable pressure" not to appear at the court case as a witness.

That official is in fact Sligo councillor Hubert Keaney, who was a close supporter of Mr Perry when he was a TD.

Mr Keaney is standing over the claim that he was pressurised and has subsequently put this in writing to both Mr Curran and Fine Gael MEP Brian Hayes. If his allegations can be stood up, they may have profound implications for the party.

Mr Perry's second serious allegation relates to the party's trustees.

He claims that some trustees knew about Mr Curran's letter months before the case, while others were "kept in the dark".

It is claimed by several reputable figures within the party that at least one of these trustees who saw the contents of Mr Curran's letter is a close ally of the Taoiseach.

If some trustees knew about the letter, as Mr Perry claims, that too could have serious ramifications.

So, where do we go from here?

Fine Gael has referred both Mr Perry and Mr Keaney's allegations to the party's legal advisers.

One senior source this week insisted that the party would robustly defend itself against the allegations.

Mr Keaney, who has yet to speak publicly about the controversy, has emerged as arguably the most central character in this saga.

If he can back up his claims (which, according to sources, he says he can) then expect this issue to continue to haunt Fine Gael.

Irish Independent

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