Wednesday 22 November 2017

'I would not call that a controversy,' says Perry over employing his wife

John Perry. Photo: Courtpix
John Perry. Photo: Courtpix

Tim Healy

John Perry says he never had any discussion with Fine Gael party strategists in which fears were expressed about his electoral strength following controversies about him.

The TD also disputed in court claims that a sister of one of the winning candidates for the Sligo-Leitrim constituency had only been putting ballot papers into a box at the request of two elderly members.

And he claimed Fine Gael general secretary Tom Curran had bullied and traumatised his 15-year-old son, wrongly accusing the boy of canvassing in the voting area at the Drumshanbo convention on October 16 last.

Mr Perry was under cross-examination on the second day of his High Court action against the trustees of Fine Gael. He is seeking that the result of the October 16 convention, at which he failed to be selected, be set aside because it was fundamentally flawed, unlawful and involved serious irregularities.

It was put to him by Seamus Woulfe SC, for the party, that an expert would give evidence that as part of the party's electoral strategy, his electoral strength may have been affected by recent controversies. These included claims for mileage expenses and the hiring of his wife as a parliamentary assistant.

He denied there was any controversy and said he employed his wife for 10 weeks after he resigned as a junior minister and she had also worked voluntarily for him for six months.

He said there were people in the current Government employing their spouses as secretaries. "I would not call that controversy, it may be in your mind but not in mine," he said.

Following objections from Mr Perry's own counsel, there was no further questioning on the matter when Mr Perry agreed to say there had been some controversy.

Earlier, he said he met with the general secretary Tom Curran and Brian Hayes TD last January to discuss the issue of strategy in the constituency.

He was asked was he retiring and said "absolutely not" and he offered the view there should be three candidates in Sligo-Leitrim. He denied a claim by Mr Curran that he threatened to run as an independent if he did not get a nomination.

Mr Woulfe said the convention attracted a large turnout and could be described "in sporting parlance as the political group of death". There were seven disputed votes and Mr Perry lost by 10, the court has heard.

The court was told the claim that Ita Reynolds, a sister of one of the candidates, was seen by someone putting votes into the ballot box had been dealt with on the night by Mr Curran. Ms Reynolds told him she was doing it at the request of two elderly members.

Mr Perry said it was "quite extraordinary" that those people "would not walk from here to the door to cast their votes".

The case continues.

Irish Independent

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