Saturday 20 January 2018

Enda Kenny was told about bribes in 2007

Deasy and Flanagan met party leader about claims over Forsey

Forsey with his partner Karen
Fred Forsey with his partner Karen Morrisey

Daniel McConnell Chief Reporter

Taoiseach Enda Kenny and senior Fine Gael figures were made aware of corruption allegations surrounding the Fred Forsey case as early as 2007, yet failed to act.

Waterford TD John Deasy brought the matter to the attention of his party leader and other colleagues during a meeting which was also attended by current party chairman Charles Flanagan.

In a watershed moment in Irish politics, Forsey, a former Fine Gael Dungarvan councillor, was last week sentenced to six years in prison with the last two years suspended after being found guilty on six counts of corruption .

In a separate complaint, a letter was sent to Fine Gael HQ last week by two Waterford councillors -- Ann Marie Power and Maxine Keoghan -- castigating the inaction of Fine Gael from "the outset of the investigation".

The complaint points to a deep divide within Fine Gael on the matter of response to the allegations.

"The details of this case were disclosed to Fine Gael at every level from the outset. Fine Gael management was given every opportunity to avoid the current turmoil in Waterford County but remains paralysed and unable to satisfactorily advise its elected members. This situation was totally avoidable," the complaint said.

Ms Power yesterday said she is "deeply disappointed" in Mr Kenny's lack of response to the serious matters at the heart of this saga.

"I thought I had a good relationship with him, but he and the top brass have simply brushed this under the carpet, it is appalling," she said.

In a seering critique of Mr Kenny and senior party figures, Ms Power and Ms Keoghan called on the Taoiseach to give strong leadership even if it means making tough decisions.

"Leadership is required and often hard decisions are required as a part of that leadership," the councillors said.

Meanwhile, the Sunday Independent has confirmed that Mr Kenny's attention was brought to the Forsey corruption scandal as far back as 2007, immediately after Forsey's ex-wife Jenny approached local TD John Deasy with the revelations.

Mr Deasy, accompanied by the party's then justice spokesman Charlie Flanagan, met with Mr Kenny in 2007 and he gave them a full appraisal of what he had been told and what he had told gardai.

"Any meetings I had with the party leader were private and confidential," Mr Flanagan said this weekend. "As this is a sensitive issue, it would be unwise and unfair to comment before they are dealt with in accordance with due process."

Following on from last week's complaint, Fine Gael general secretary Tom Curran and a legal adviser are to meet later this week with all of the party's councillors in Waterford. However, a party spokesman was unable to give a clear and precise reason for the meeting.

"We only got the complaint this week and we are looking into it. We are meeting post this incident, just to talk to our councillors. Any further steps will be decided after that," a Fine Gael spokesman said.

Mr Deasy said yesterday: "There is a judicial process still under way which is not yet completed. I can't and won't comment until that process is completed."

Councillors Anne Marie Power and Maxine Keoghan have also formally complained about the seven other Fine Gael councillors who voted in favour of the controversial rezoning at the heart of the Forsey case, despite it being under garda investigation at the time.

"The question to be asked is why Fine Gael management is continuing to allow councillors who voted for the questionable rezoning to put themselves forward for positions. . . this action is bringing Fine Gael into disrepute," the letter of complaint said.

"We request this complaint is referred to the disciplinary committee as a priority item," they wrote.

The complaint from the two councillors was sent to Fine Gael executive members Tom Curran, Charlie Flanagan and Lucinda Creighton.

Included in those seven councillors is Brendan Coffey, brother of party TD Paudie Coffey. The councillors who voted for the rezoning have always stood by their decision and maintained that they voted in good faith, with many saying their sole concern was supporting job creation.

Mr Coffey, echoing the sentiments of many of his colleagues, said: "My conscience is clear. I know I went against planning guidelines and that wouldn't adhere to best practice."

Forsey resigned from Dungarvan Town Council in June 2007 after receiving a phone call from Mr Deasy, asking him to quit. He then emigrated with partner Karen Morrissey to Australia before moving to Liverpool.

The complaint further states: "This formal complaint is two-fold. Firstly, the Fine Gael executive has not taken the necessary action against the seven councillors [who voted in favour of the rezoning].

"Secondly, Fine Gael management must be held to account for insisting that local representatives act against what is national policy."

Asked why the Forsey matter had not been referred to the Mahon Tribunal, Mr Kenny's spokesman said the matter was not applicable as the tribunal only dealt with in matters in the Dublin area.

Since his jailing, Forsey has already been visited by Ms Morrissey in Mountjoy Prison.

Sunday Independent

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