Thursday 19 September 2019

Politician loses bid to stop ethics inquiry into comments he made while being secretly filmed by Primetime

Cllr Hugh McElvaney
Cllr Hugh McElvaney

Aodhan O Faolain and Ray Managh

A county councillor has lost his High Court bid aimed at preventing an ethics inquiry being conducted over comments he made while being secretly filmed by RTE's Primetime Programme.

The action was brought by Monaghan County Councillor Hugh McElvaney, who is the subject of Standards in Public Office (SiPO) Commission investigating whether he breached ethics when he was one of the subject of an RTE Investigates programme aired in 2015.

In it, an undercover researcher posed as a representative of a foreign investment firm looking for their support for a fictitious wind farm development.

In his judgement this morning, Mr Justice Garrett Simons said he was satisfied "to dismiss the application in its entirety."

The decision clears the SiPO inquiry to proceed. It had been on hold pending the outcome of the High Court case to proceed.

Cllr McElveaney brought High Court judicial review proceedings last year, claiming the inquiry into him should be stopped.

Among the claims of the former Fine Gael councillor - who is now independent - Mr McElvaney had argued that he was entrapped by the RTE reporter, who would not be available for cross-examination at the hearing of the investigation and that the inquiry was inadequate.

In a lengthy and detailed ruling Judge said that the absence of the undercover reporter did not prejudice the statutory investigation being conducted by SiPO.

The Judge said what the reporter said was not at issue as it was accepted what she had said was fictitious.

What was at issue the judge said was the response of the councillor to what was said.

SiPO, he said, "will have to consider, for example, whether the councillor's response amounted to a request for remuneration or reward for anything to be done by virtue of his office as an elected member".

The Judge added that the councillor's objection to RTE engaging in an impermissible exercise of entrapment was "premature".

The Commission he said has made it clear that it has not yet made a determination in respect of the entrapment objection raised by Cllr McElvaney.

The matter was adjourned to a date in October for final orders.

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