Thursday 24 October 2019

Council probes Howlin ally's secret payment


Cllr George Lawlor
Cllr George Lawlor
Hugh O'Connell

Hugh O'Connell

Wexford County Council is investigating allegations surrounding a secret payment to a Fine Gael councillor by the town's former mayor, who is a close ally of Labour leader Brendan Howlin.

Cllr George Lawlor - Mr Howlin's parliamentary assistant - said he paid Fine Gael councillor Frank Staples €400 to cover Mr Staples's expenses as deputy mayor in 2014. Mr Lawlor has previously admitted the payment sounded "dodgy" and that it was a mistake not to disclose it.

It was made as part of a cross-party deal between six of the 10 councillors in the Wexford district to ensure all but one of them would serve as mayor of the town for one year each between 2014 and 2019. The plan was that while Mr Staples would lose out, he would serve as deputy mayor for three years with three councillors agreeing to each pay him €400 as "a token gesture".

Mr Staples said the payment was wrong and he returned the money when he became mayor after the death of one of the councillors in the pact.

The council is now investigating alleged breaches of the Local Government Act on foot of correspondence from Sinn Féin's Tom Forde. He lodged a complaint after the Irish Independent revealed details about the pact and payment.

A council spokesman said: "We do not wish to comment at this time."

Mr Lawlor and Mr Staples did not return calls.

Irish Independent

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