COLR MCELVANEY REQUESTS THAT CO COUNCIL INQUIRY ON RTE PROGRAMME CONTENTS BE EXPEDITED

15 January 2016 No Comments by The Northern Standard

PETER HUGHES

Monaghan Co Council was requested on Monday by Colr Hugh McElvaney to expedite an inquiry it was conducting on foot of the contents of a recent RTE Investigates programme in which the veteran local public representative was prominently featured.

The former Fine Gael and now Independent councillor was shown on the programme, broadcast on Monday December 7, telling an undercover journalist purporting to represent a wind farm company that he would assist the company to establish a project in Co Monaghan if he was paid £10,000 Sterling.

Colr McElvaney maintains he became aware of what he has described as “a scam” at an early stage and went along with it in order to expose the “dirty tricks” of the national broadcaster.

He also requested on Monday that the minutes of the Co Council’s monthly meeting on December 7 be amended to reflect the fact that he had made a statement at the meeting informing the Council about the programme to be broadcast later that evening.

Asking for the amendment at what was the January monthly meeting of the local authority, Colr McElvaney said there was no mention in the minutes of a statement he had made about a television programme going out that night on RTE. He wanted the minutes amended to include this.

He noted that at a subsequent special meeting of the Co Council [at which a motion was passed calling on Colr McElvaney to resign] reference was made that he could have notified the Council members and staff of the situation and this might have eased the blow slightly. However, at the December 7 meeting he did notify all of them about the programme that was coming down the tracks. The Northern Standard carried a full column in relation to the statement he had made and it was unbelievable there was no mention of it in the minutes of December 7.

Colr McElvaney said he had another reason for asking for this, as the minutes of the subsequent special meeting indicated that an inquiry was to be initiated by the management of the Council, and he expected that this would take into account that notice was given by him of “this particular scam”.

He asked the Council executive if the inquiry had commenced and when a result could be expected, and if they had sought an investigation from An Garda Síochána. The reason he was asking for the inquiry to be held very sharply was that he was Cathaoirleach of the Ballybay-Clones Municipal District “and they are quite a hostile lot over in the chamber”, and he didn’t want to upset the workings of this body by chairing meetings until the Co Council investigation was fully carried out. He was requesting that the inquiry be carried out fairly quickly and a result given.

Meetings Administrator Carmel Thornton said that minutes were a record of decisions taken at a meeting. She didn’t record Colr McElvaney’s statement but it was in the members’ hands if a reference to it was included in the minutes through an amendment.

NO CONFUSION

Sinn Féin’s Brian McKenna said that the minutes of the special meeting recorded that Colr McElvaney had read a statement to that meeting. Colr McKenna felt there was no confusion on the members’ behalf.

Colr McElvaney responded that it had been stated at the special meeting that councillors should have been informed in advance of the RTE programme. “I did give notice,” he stated.

Colr McKenna said it was a week beforehand that the members knew the programme was coming. “We learned it from RTE, not from you,” he told Colr McElvaney.

Colr McElvaney said the members had learned it in public view on December 7 and he was asking for that to be recorded. He had also done an interview on Northern Sound earlier that day.

Colr McKenna: There is no confusion as far as I am concerned. There is nothing wrong with the minutes as far as I am concerned.

Colr McElvaney: You think it is fair enough not to include the statement?

Colr McKenna said that statements were not recorded word for word in the minutes. The statement Colr McElvaney read to the special meeting was referred to in the minutes of that meeting.

“There it is there in The Northern Standard,” Colr McElvaney stated, indicating a page in a copy of the newspaper.

Ms Thornton asked if the members were agreeable to include a reference to the statement Colr McElvaney had made on December 7 in the minutes of that meeting.

Fianna Fáil’s Pádraig McNally said he did not have an issue with it. “If he made a statement, he made a statement,” he remarked.

Colr McElvaney asked that it be recorded that he made a statement referring to a programme broadcast that particular night.

Colr McKenna said that when he spoke at the special meeting he was critical of the fact that Colr McElvaney had not informed councillors of the programme before they were informed by RTE. They had heard a playback of Colr McElvaney’s voice on a trailer for the programme. He was critical that members weren’t informed of the programme by Colr McElvaney before that.

Colr McElvaney reiterated that he had informed the members at the meeting on December 7. He also pointed out that RTE had used his voice in the trailer for the programme without his permission.

Acting Chief Executive Adge King said that members would be aware that the Cathaoirleach (Noel Keelan) and himself had statutory roles in relation to the Co Council investigation. He could confirm that the investigation had begun and was ongoing but he could not say when it would be concluded.

Mr King added that the Council had not initiated a Garda investigation at this stage.

It was then agreed by the members to amend the minutes of the December 7 meeting to include reference to Colr McElvaney’s statement.

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