Thursday 22 March 2018

County council powerless to force McElvaney to resign despite vote

Hugh McElvaney. Photo: Philip Fitzpatrick Photography
Hugh McElvaney. Photo: Philip Fitzpatrick Photography

Joe McCabe

Monaghan County Council has no power to force controversial Independent county councillor Hughie McElvaney out of his post despite calling for his resignation.

A special meeting of the council was called after Cllr McElvaney (pictured) was secretly filmed in an 'RTÉ Investigates' exposé asking an RTÉ undercover reporter for £10,000 (€13,750) in exchange for securing planning permission for wind farms.

After two hours of debate the council voted on a motion calling for his resignation after what was described in the motion as "a clear breach of the code of conduct" evidenced in the programme which aired in December 7.

Some 13 councillors, including all of Cllr McElvaney's former Fine Gael council colleagues, voted in favour of the motion. However, the council has no powers to force Cllr McElvaney to resign.

Three councillors abstained. The Sinn Féin chairman who called the meeting, Cllr Noel Keelan, informed the meeting he would be abstaining from the vote given the role of the chairman under Section 174 of the Local Government Act.

Two councillors were absent, Fianna Fáil's Seamus Coyle, due to a family bereavement, and Cllr McElvaney.

Before he left the meeting, Cllr McElvaney told councillors he had resigned from Fine Gael over the government's backing for the controversial Eirgrid Cross-border electricity pylon inter-connector and that he was aware he was being "set up" by "Nina Carlson', the fictitious name of the RTÉ undercover reporter.

"The first impression I got was that wind farms and Hughie McElvaney don't go hand in hand as these are the means of generating electricity for the overhead pylons. So I immediately thought that this was a wind-up or a stitch-up," he read from a prepared statement.

McElvaney added: "I decided to have a bit of fun and to find out who these people really were."

He maintained RTÉ had attempted to "blacken and incriminate" him by playing "the real spicy bits" of a 10 to 15-minute recording.

Acting chief executive officer of Monaghan County Council, Adge King told the special two-hour meeting that the council was conducting its own investigation and was seeking legal advice in relation to the contents of the 'RTÉ Investigates' programme.

Irish Independent

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