Friday 23 February 2018

Family and lover stand by Forsey

Corrupt former councillor sticks to his story that developer's €80,000 was a loan as he plans appeal

Eimear Ni Bhraonain

THE family of Fred Forsey is drumming up support in his home town for the disgraced ex-Fine Gael deputy mayor.

Forsey, 43, began a four-year jail sentence last Wednesday for accepting €80,000 in bribes from a wealthy developer in return for planning favours.

While he is locked up in the Midlands Prison in Portlaoise, his young lover, Karen Morrissey, 26, and Forsey's family are canvassing locally to gain sympathy for the former politician.

Last week, Forsey's belongings were packed up at the beach hideaway where he had been living with Ms Morrissey.

The young woman, who accepted a diamond engagement ring from Forsey while he was still married to Jenny, with whom he has three children, has vowed to stand by her lover while he serves out his sentence.

She is expected to be his first visitor in the Midlands Prison, where Forsey will serve out his sentence, and has already visited him at Mountjoy, where he was being processed last week.

The pair are likely to be permitted an 'open visit' in Portlaoise, meaning there will not be a screen between them.

A large entourage of family and friends, including Ms Morrissey's father, Joe Morrissey, were present in the Dublin Courts of Criminal Justice last week when Forsey was sentenced.

There were scenes in the courtroom that mirrored a soap opera when Forsey stretched out his arms to embrace Ms Morrissey after he had learned his fate.

Ms Morrissey had whimpered quietly during the hearing while Forsey stared ahead, listening to Judge Gerard Griffin's sentence.

Afterwards, a large group surrounded Forsey while he held Ms Morrissey and blurted out: "I love you."

Forsey briefly pulled himself away to hug his mother, Ann. Fred Snr was also present and spoke to his son before he was taken into custody.

One of his sisters walked around the courtroom shaking her head in disbelief and sobbing loudly.

There was no sign of his estranged wife, Jenny Forsey, at the sentencing hearing.

When asked a day later at her modest semi-detached home on the outskirts of Dungarvan if she was aware of her ex-husband's jailing, Ms Forsey said she had "no comment" to make.

She appeared uninterested in the sentence as she went about her business as normal. Judge Griffin last week praised the 42-year-old for her "bravery" and "civic-mindedness" for testifying against Forsey.

Fred Forsey, who is the middle child in his family, has four siblings: Martina, Suzanne, Gareth and Jonathan. His parents, who are from Waterford city, are well-known in Dungarvan as "decent people", particularly Fred Snr, who runs a driving school.

Yesterday, a former friend of Forsey's said the former councillor's family had been trying to get people in Dungarvan behind his appeal.

A campaign page to "Free Fred Forsey" was set up on social networking site Facebook after his conviction in May and included comments from his family members. However, it has since been removed from the internet.

Another source close to the family revealed to the Sunday Independent that the Forseys believe their son had been "hard done by".

"He was always a golden boy. He goes by nothing only 'Frederick' -- a real mammy's boy -- but they just can't get their head around the fact that he's in prison now like any common criminal."

Forsey, who is known for his ability to charm people whom he meets, also has the support of Ms Morrissey's family.

Her father, Joe, used his credit union savings account as a surety bond when Forsey could not afford his own bail money.

Forsey's defence team said he had decided not to issue a statement after his jailing -- and they opted not to speak on his behalf.

Despite this, it is clear that his Limerick solicitor, John Devane, is planning to appeal the conviction on his client's behalf. Indications are that he will "fight it all the way".

The former driving instructor, who became a Fine Gael representative on Dungarvan Town Council in 2003, after his predecessor John Deasy had resigned, has repeatedly insisted that the payments he received were not corrupt.

In a last-ditch attempt to plead for leniency, Forsey took to the witness box for a second time last Wednesday, to tell Judge Griffin that the money he got was "a loan".

Despite his protestations, Forsey has not repaid a single cent of the €80,000 to the developer to this day.

He lodged the money to his AIB account on three separate dates in 2006.

Sunday Independent

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