Wednesday 24 October 2018

Former senator Francie O’Brien (70) jailed for three years

Marese McDonagh

A FORMER Fianna Fail senator was today jailed for three years for his role in attempting to extort €100,000 from a Department of Agriculture Veterinary Inspector in what was described by a Judge as “an abominable scheme”.

 Francis O’Brien (70), from Corwillan, Latton, Castleblayney, Co Monaghan wept as he was led away at Carrick on Shannon Circuit Court  to begin his sentence. He was given a three-year jail term with the final year was suspended.

A senator from 1989 to 2011, he had pleaded guilty to a charge of  demanding €100,000 from Michael Heelan, with menaces, at Tullyvaragh Lower, Carrickmacross, Co Monaghan on April 13 last year.

He was apprehended by Gardai after a sting operation  when  he met with Mr Heelan in a shed  to hand over material relating to the department official’s work. O’Brien  had demaned the money in exchange for this material, the court heard.

Judge John O’Hagan  heard that the department official had gone to the accused,  “a pillar of the community”,  looking for advice after being  fined €300  when waste material relating to his work  was found .

He was worried about the impact of the prosecution on his job.

The former senator later told Mr Heelan that more material had been found but that the matter could be sorted out for €100,000.

O’Brien, a former chairman of Lough Egish Co-op in Co Monaghon, told the veterinary inspector  that he was “only the messenger”.

The amount was gradually reduced but Mr Heelan eventually went to the gardai .

The court heard that Mr Heelan had gone O’Brien for advice because he believed the former senator was a person of influence and he was worried about  his job.

Judge O’Hagan told O'Brien  that he was a former public representative who allowed himself to be used  by blackmailers against a department official.

In his direct evidence, Mr O’Brien apologised to Mr Heelan.

“I am ashamed of myself,” he added.

The court was told that he had given 30 years service to his community and had never been in trouble before.

Online Editors

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News