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Tuesday 18 September 2018

Councillor in RTÉ sting claims he was the victim of 'honeytrap' by 'blonde bombshell'

Claim: Joe Queenan said he was led astray by an undercover reporter. Picture: Sportsfile
Claim: Joe Queenan said he was led astray by an undercover reporter. Picture: Sportsfile

Shona Murray

A former Fianna Fáil councillor claims he was the victim of a "honeytrap" by a "blonde bombshell" as part of an undercover report into breaches of local authority planning regulations.

Independent Sligo county councillor Joe Queenan claims he was led astray by an undercover reporter posing as a representative from a London-based windfarm investment company.

He was put under the impression by 'RTÉ Investigates' that he was speaking to a woman named 'Nina Carlson' from a fictitious company called Vinst Opportunities.

He described Ms Carlson as a "blonde bombshell" who gave him chocolate biscuits and set him up by pretending she had "unlimited" cash to invest in the Sligo region.

Cllr Queenan is one of three councillors facing an investigation by the Standards in Public Office Commission over several alleged breaches of conduct in relation to the 'RTÉ Investigates' undercover report. The others are John O'Donnell (Donegal County Council) and Hugh McElvaney (Monaghan County Council).

Addressing the commission yesterday, Cllr Queenan said: "I was set up. She looked the part and I was weak enough to fall for it - chocolate biscuits n' all. I was there for my county.

"I was eating chocolate biscuits, I had a blonde bombshell in front of me and the rest is history," he said.

Secret video and audio recordings of conversations between Cllr Queenan and the undercover reporter were played at the hearing.

Cllr Queenan was heard saying he was "not looking for anything out of" helping Ms Carlson. But, he said "maybe down the road I might have some businesses" that Vinst Opportunities may be interested in investing in. A figure of €200,000 worth of investment was discussed between him and the so-called Ms Carlson.

During his evidence Cllr Queenan said he had "allowed myself to engage in a hypothetical conversation about future investment", but his priority was to attract much-needed investment for Sligo.

He said he was further distracted during the conversation because his brother was unwell at the time and he was concerned about this.

"I thought I was meeting with someone who has a genuine interest in Sligo," he said. "I'm embarrassed really...she was flirting...I lost my concentration," he added.

Senior 'RTÉ Investigates' reporter Conor Ryan dismissed as "offensive" a claim by Cllr Queenan's lawyer, Michael O'Connor, that the undercover reporter was instructed to "show her cleavage" as part of the plan to "entrap" the councillor.

Mr O'Connor said the undercover reporter "is seen with her button opened during her meeting with Mr Queenan...and then closes her blouse after her meeting".

During his evidence, cameraman Cedric Culleton said it would be normal procedure to adjust a concealed lapel microphone before or after a recording.

After the meeting had ended and as the tape continued to roll 'Ms Carlson' was heard saying "I think he fancied me".

The hearing continues today.

Irish Independent

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