| 9.6°C Dublin

Politician in blackmail case wants 'redress' from FF


A FORMER Fianna Fail councillor who was blackmailed after being photographed allegedly taking cocaine has accused the party of betrayal and making him out to be a criminal.

Liam Kelly was speaking last night after Wesley Higgins was jailed for 18 months for blackmail. Higgins (33) had attempted to extort €5,000 from Mr Kelly by threatening to give the pictures to a newspaper.

When Mr Kelly refused to hand over the money, Higgins sold the pictures to the 'Sunday World' where they appeared shortly afterwards.

After the conviction was handed down at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court, Mr Kelly claimed he had been betrayed by his party.

Mr Kelly called on Fianna Fail to "make redress" to him and his family and threatened legal action if they refused.

"Fianna Fail headquarters launched an inquiry in relation to me," he said. "At all times they maintained to people that I was actually the criminal in the case.

"I now call upon them to acknowledge that they actually mishandled that case, ignored my rights of representation and they discriminated against me."

Fianna Fail would not comment on the allegations.

Higgins, of Dundaniel Road, Kilmore, Coolock, had pleaded not guilty to demanding money with menaces between August 6 and 12, 2006. Midway through the trial, Higgins changed his plea to guilty before the jury.

Detective Garda Martin Wall said Mr Kelly knew Higgins on a casual basis and arranged to be picked up by him and brought to a house party in the early hours of the morning.

When he arrived there were only three other people there. He stayed until 7am. Later that day, he got a voicemail from Higgins asking for a loan followed by another asking for a place to sleep.

Several days later, Higgins again phoned and said a girl had photos of him taking cocaine and wanted €5,000. Higgins added that he would also "need to be looked after himself".

The following Saturday a 'Sunday World' journalist confronted Mr Kelly with the pictures and asked him if he was taking cocaine. Mr Kelly denied he was and alerted the gardai.

Higgins was arrested and initially claimed he was acting as a go-between for the woman in return for €500. He later admitted selling the photos to the newspaper himself for €4,500.

Mr Kelly, a Dublin city councillor for Finglas/Glasnevin, told the court he did not want to see Higgins imprisoned.

But Judge Desmond Hogan called it a "premeditated, conniving and sly" crime and imposed a three-year term, with the final 18 months suspended.

"This is a very serious offence which is met with universal public opprobrium," the judge said.

He said Mr Kelly was targeted because he was a public representative and "a decent, charitable man who unfortunately had a weakness; a severe problem with drink".

The court heard Mr Kelly was a recovering alcoholic who didn't remember large parts of the night when the pictures were taken.

Mr Kelly said when he complained to Fianna Fail about the inquiry, he was told "there were different rules for different people".

"In political plain English that means Fianna Fail headquarters meant that I was not from a rich family, I was not the scion of a family political dynasty or I was not a TD."

Mr Kelly threatened to use everything in his power to "force redress" from the party.

The former councillor said he didn't remember the night and didn't know if it was cocaine.

Defence counsel Keith Spencer BL said that Higgins had a cocaine addiction at the time but was now drug-free.

Irish Independent