Wednesday 21 February 2018

Councillor who featured in RTÉ Investigates documentary: I can't afford to pay out car incident claim

Cllr O'Donnell outside court. Photo: NorthWestNewsPix
Cllr O'Donnell outside court. Photo: NorthWestNewsPix

Greg Harkin

A councillor at the centre of corruption allegations is in the process of applying for insolvency because of multi-million euro debts and does not have the means to settle a €33,000 civil case, a court heard today.

Cllr John O'Donnell, who featured in an RTÉ Investigates programme in December, was cross-examined at Letterkenny District Civil Court over his financial affairs.

He revealed that he has two outstanding €1m personal guarantees to two different banks and that his properties and investments had been frozen.

The politician has failed to pay off a personal injury claim to Petra Kucklick, of Rooskey, Creeslough, Co Donegal, which was ruled upon in 2008.

It relates to an incident in 2000 in which Cllr O'Donnell had run over Ms Kucklick's foot with his car.

Judge Paul Kelly described as "shadowy" Cllr O'Donnell's role in a pub business and described the politician's statement of means as "sketchy to say the least".

The Independent councillor was cross-examined by counsel for Ms Kucklick, Laura O'Reilly, and was questioned by Judge Kelly about his role in a number of businesses.

Cllr O'Donnell said he was now facing bankruptcy because of outstanding debts including two €1m personal guarantees he had signed with AIB and ACC banks. He said his only income was €16,000 per year from his role as a councillor.

Ms O'Reilly told the court Mr O'Donnell had paid her €7,600 in 2009 at a rate of €800 per month but had not paid any money since.

Cllr O'Donnell told her he had stopped paying Ms Kucklick because he could no longer afford to do so and that he was unaware he could have had the payment order varied.

He insisted that in the past few years he had not taken any salary from his role in managing the Millbridge Inn in Kilmacrennan or a wool exporting business, although he did have use of a BMW X5 in the latter role.

Judge Paul Kelly said the politician's finances were "in some disarray".

The judge went on: "It appears to me that he doesn't have adequate resources [to pay Ms Kucklick]. He may well have had over various times up to about a year or two ago."

He ordered that Cllr O'Donnell provide all bank statements to Ms Kucklick and adjourned the case until March 2.

Irish Independent

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