Thursday 14 December 2017

I'm taking RTÉ to court over exposé: councillor

Cllr John O'Donnell at the meeting. Photo: North West Newspix
Cllr John O'Donnell at the meeting. Photo: North West Newspix

Greg Harkin

A county councillor at the centre of RTÉ allegations of political corruption says he will prove his innocence in a High Court action against the broadcaster.

There were rowdy scenes at Donegal County Council's first monthly meeting since the 'RTÉ Investigates programme broadcast in December alleged Cllr John O'Donnell had asked for money to help an undercover reporter get planning permission for wind turbines.

The meeting had to be suspended after a member of the public walked up to Cllr O'Donnell and shouted angrily in his face.

Independent councillor Frank McBrearty put forward a motion calling for Cllr O'Donnell to be expelled from council committees because the council doesn't have the power to remove him from the full council.

However, council director Liam Ward said legal advice was that the councillors didn't have the power to remove Cllr O'Donnell from committees either.

Councillors voted by 20 to 12 on a counter-motion from Cllr Ian McGarvey to allow the investigation by the council ethics registrar to continue.

Cllr Frank McBrearty said: "We needed to send a clear statement to the rest of Ireland that the people of Donegal will not stand for corruption."

He said he would now seek his own legal advice on whether or not councillors can exclude Cllr O'Donnell from committees.

However Cllr O'Donnell told the Irish Independent: "Do you think I would go through all of this if I was guilty of anything?

"That (RTÉ) meeting was set up as a business meeting. I am taking a High Court case to have all the audio and video taken by RTÉ released to me and then people will see the full context of it. I will prove my innocence."

The independent politician thanked councillors who had "given me a chance to clear my name".

Irish Independent

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