Friday 23 March 2018

Bombshell letter hits Fine Gael over John Perry court case

John Perry: case left party with a €500,000 legal bill Picture: Mark Condren
John Perry: case left party with a €500,000 legal bill Picture: Mark Condren
Niall O'Connor

Niall O'Connor

Fine Gael has been rocked by explosive new claims by former minister John Perry in relation to the events leading up to his dramatic High Court battle, which left the party saddled with a bill of around €500,000.

In a letter sent to senior Fine Gael figures this week, Mr Perry claims to have "direct evidence" that a trial witness was put under "considerable pressure" not to appear in the High Court.

The former minister for small business says the individual in question has written to the party, "setting out the details of his experience and concerns".

Mr Perry also claims that some party trustees were "kept in the dark" in relation to a letter sent prior to the court case by general secretary Tom Curran in relation to the handling of the selection convention in Sligo/Leitrim.

In that letter, Mr Curran described the organisation of the event as "chaotic" and plagued by a "catalogue" of mistakes which had "drained people's competency in the returning officer".

The letter, sent to the convention's returning officer, Darragh Kelly, was not disclosed as evidence under discovery to Mr Perry's legal team before the hearing and only emerged as the trial came to a close.

In spite of Mr Curran's grave concerns over the handing of the convention, Fine Gael nevertheless went ahead with defending the case, which was settled just before Christmas.

Mr Perry was added to the ticket after the letter had been submitted as evidence. It is believed that the case cost the party in the region of €500,000.

According to Mr Perry's correspondence, which has been seen by the Irish Independent, details of Mr Curran's letter were communicated to a trustee shortly after it had been written.

Mr Perry said he confirmed this "in direct conversation" with the trustee and was "well satisfied" that the letter had been shared at an "early stage" with senior political figures.

Mr Perry's letter to senior party figures states: "The decision by Fine Gael to contest my claim to be added to the constituency list of party candidates was taken in the full knowledge of the letter written by the general secretary, setting down his serious concerns about the conduct of the convention.

"The decision by Fine Gael to resist a reasonable settlement of the case before legal action was initiated ultimately resulted in the loss of considerable party financial resources when a General Election was imminent.

"Fine Gael party credibility and reputation were diminished and, in the view of many, (the decision) led directly to the loss of a second seat in Sligo. These negative outcomes for Fine Gael were avoidable.

"I believe it is inappropriate that the Fine Gael party initiate or defend any legal action unless all trustees are knowledgeable of and fully involved in the decision-making process.

"In my case, the defence action was initiated on behalf of all trustees of the party but only some trustees were aware of the facts in the case. Some members of the national executive and party officials were also aware of all the facts. At the same time, others, including some trustees, were kept in the dark.

"It is unacceptable that some trustees, members of the national executive, senior party officers and staff retain to themselves information relevant to the reputation and credibility of the Fine Gael party. In future, all trustees must be aware of and involved in significant decisions taken and legal actions carried out in their name."

Senior Fine Gael sources said the claims raised "major questions" as to why the party proceeded to defend the case, given the glaring concerns about the handling of the convention.

A party spokeswoman said it had "no comment" on the claims.

Irish Independent

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