Tuesday 20 March 2018

Fine Gael crisis talks after latest Conlan controversy erupts

Grassroots members to discuss deputy with party HQ

INVESTIGATION: Gardai are probing a stabbing incident at TD Sean Conlan’s bar
INVESTIGATION: Gardai are probing a stabbing incident at TD Sean Conlan’s bar
Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

Senior Fine Gael figures in Monaghan are to hold crisis talks with party headquarters this week to discuss the mounting controversies surrounding the embattled TD Sean Conlan.

There is growing unease in Mr Conlan's electoral base over the increasing amount of negative publicity linked to the deputy who has been rarely out of the headlines in recent years.

Last week it emerged gardai were investigating a stabbing incident that took place in a bar Mr Conlan owns.

Mr Conlan was in the bar at the time but has not spoken about the incident publicly.

Members of Fine Gael's grassroots organisation in Monaghan are due to meet party secretary general Tom Curran this week to discuss the fallout from the latest incident and other scandals involving their local TD.

It is understood the group will raise concerns about what they regard as the deputy's lack of interaction with his local support base.

"We want to know why the deputy is in such trouble all the time. He doesn't talk to us," a source said.

Central to the talks will be the Cavan/Monaghan constituency selection convention, which is due to take place on September 8.

Mr Conlan has been proposed as a candidate alongside sitting TDs Arts Minister Heather Humphreys and Cavan-based Joe O'Reilly.

It is understood the group will discuss the best strategy for the party in the constituency and how many candidates to put on the ticket.

"This is a prescheduled meeting ahead of the selection convention," a Fine Gael spokesman said.

Mr Curran will hold separate talks with Mr Conlan.

Senior Fine Gael officials in Dublin tried to reach the TD for a number of days last week after the bar-room fracas in the pub he owns but leases out. He has since spoken to party headquarters.

However, the lack of contact was a source of frustration for the party hierarchy given that the selection convention was approaching.

Monaghan gardai interviewed a number of witnesses who were present in the bar last Sunday which resulted in a man in his 20s requiring medical attention after he was cut with a broken glass.

There were also reports the young man was head-butted during the brawl.

Mr Conlan shot to national attention in the midst of the John McNulty Seanad election fiasco when he took to RTE Six One News to attack Taoiseach Enda Kenny and his constituency colleague Heather Humphreys.

Not long after, it emerged a UK antiques dealer wrote to the Taoiseach when she could not reach Mr Conlan to receive payment for a €10,000 diamond ring she presumed he had wanted to buy for his fiancée Sarah Comiskey.

Mr Conlan claimed he took the ring back to Ireland to get it valued and then decided he did not want it. The ring was later returned and antiques dealer Freya Hart said she was pleased with the outcome.

Ms Comiskey is also her future husband's taxpayer- funded parliamentary assistant.

She recently failed in her High Court action to have references to her removed from a damning Employment Appeal Tribunal ruling against Mr Conlan over the unfair dismissal of his former secretarial assistant Cathy Shevlin.

The Tribunal found Ms Shevlin was forced to take stress-related sick leave after a break down in communication with her employer.

Ms Shevlin was awarded €25,000 in damages.

During the three-day hearing, Ms Shevlin claimed she was bullied and harassed by the deputy and felt intimidated at work. Mr Conlan claimed he sacked his assistant because she had undermined him politically by giving sensitive information to his constituency rivals.

His appeal of the judgement will be heard in Monaghan Circuit Court on Wednesday.

Sunday Independent

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