Wednesday 23 January 2019

‘Primetime’ councillor wants to be back in FF

Joe Queenan hopes to be back in party fold after public hearings

Jenny McCudden

Just a few days before I meet and talk with Councillor Joe Queenan he tells me that the RTE Primetime Investigates programme in which he features was shown 'yet again.'

"There's been a few repeats of the programme on RTE. Every time it is repeated it brings it all back and is extremely tough on the family in particular," he says.

The former Fianna Fail councillor describes having to watch re-runs of the infamous footage first aired in December 2015 as 'cringe-worthy.'

Enniscrone based councillor Joe Queenan was one of three local politicians targeted by the programme after agreeing a meeting with an undercover reporter representing a fictitious wind farm company.

RTE alleged that he proposed an investment be made by this fictitious company in a business interest that he had in return for assisting them in the planning process. Councillor Queenan who resigned from Fianna Fail following the broadcast completely denies this allegation. To this day he is adamant that he was not represented in a fair or honest way.

"You are cringing watching it, that you walked into a trap. I was badly caught. I thought I was meeting this lady in a public place in the foyer of the Sligo Park Hotel. At the last minute she changed the venue to a room in the Great Southern. She consistently brought up money and each time I told her I wanted no payment from her," he recalls.

The West Sligo businessman stresses: "The mistake I made was walking into a trap. At the time it was all going on I had a brother dying of cancer in Canada. I was not fully focused. I'm embarrassed by my actions and I'm embarrassed for my family and my party. I had never any intention of taking anything. I have to get on with my life now."

Before he can draw a line under this episode however, Cllr. Queenan has to appear before the Standards in Public Office (SIPO) Commission on September 10th next. The public hearing will be held at the offices of SIPO in Dublin before a six-member commission who will decide if he breached the ethical framework under the Local Government Act 2001. This framework sets the rules for what councillors must declare and forbids them from accepting third-party payment for their work as a public representative.

"September is D-day for me," says Cllr. Queenan who refused to give up his seat on the council following the Primetime documentary. At the time he said: "The people of West Sligo elected me and they will be the ultimate judge at the next local elections."

And by the time those elections come around next year, Cllr Queenan is hopeful that he will be back in the party fold as he says: "I'm anxious to get back into the part and Fianna Fail are anxious to get me back. I've been out for 3 years now. It's difficult with the SIPO hearing but after that

As the third longest serving councillor on Sligo County Council he has every intention of running again.

"I'm 20 years a councillor next May and I have support. Locally that programme has not affected me. In fact it increased my business, I got more support after it aired," he concludes.

Sligo Champion