A former Fine Gael county councillor who featured in a recent programme by the RTÉ Investigations Unit has been directed by a majority vote to quit Monaghan County Council.
Hugh McElvaney, an elected representative in Co Monaghan for the past 40 years, was summoned to a meeting of the Co Monaghan local authority which was convened by the chairman of the body, Cllr Noel Keelan, to discuss the issues raised in the RTÉ programme.
Mr McElvaney is also a former chairman of the Local Authority Members Association.
Cllr McElvaney, who had previously resigned from Fine Gael to become an Independent councillor, was among three people featured in the programme who appeared to be willing to act as an intermediary between a fake “wind-farm company” and the council during the planning process, in return for financial gain.
Cllr McElvaney has since denied any wrongdoing and has claimed he knew he was being “set up” as part of the programme and also claimed he played along with it “for the craic”.
At today’s special meeting, a Sinn Féin motion proposed by Cllr Pat Treanor moved that the council formally seek the resignation of Cllr McElvaney because of “his clear breaches of the code of conduct binding the behaviour of councillors”.
Cllr McElvaney was present for the commencement of the meeting, but left after reading a lengthy prepared statement – despite being requested by Sinn Féin cllr Brian McKenna to remain for the subsequent debate.
In his statement, Cllr McElvaney repeated his earlier public assertions that he knew from the outset that his contact with the RTÉ Investigation Unit’s team was what he termed “a stitch-up and a wind-up” which he had played along with in order to expose “the dirty tricks of the national broadcaster”.
Cllr McElvaney said that throughout his long political career he had never accepted bribes or corrupt payments. He said: “When I went into that interview I knew exactly what I was doing.”
He expressed criticism of Government ministers Simon Coveney and Simon Harris for public comments they had made in relation to him.
Referring to a statement by Minister Coveney that he was delighted the Fine Gael party had got rid of him, Mr McElvaney stated: “We will see how delighted he is with the FG results in Cavan/Monaghan in the next General Election without my help.”
Cllr McElvaney added that he had succeeded in “showing the national broadcaster of the country up for what they are – a set of dirty tricksters”.
The Sinn Féin motion was eventually passed by 13 votes for, and nil against, with three abstentions.
The Cathaoirleach of the Council, Sinn Féin’s Noel Keelan explained he had been advised that it would be prudent for him to abstain from the vote given that he may have future functions to perform as a result of an investigation being carried out by the county council under the Local Government Act into aspects of the content of the RTÉ programme.
A number of councillors were scathingly critical of the behaviour of their colleague as seen on the programme.
Fine Gael’s David Maxwell, reading a prepared statement on behalf of his party, said that if Cllr McElvaney had not resigned from the party on 23 November last, he would certainly not have been a member of the party on the day following the programme.
He said: “He [Mr McElvaney] must ask himself if he can continue in public life … it is clear to us he must reflect on his position with Monaghan County Council.”
He added that if Cllr McElvaney were to go before the electorate again, he had to clear his name before he did so.
Acting Chief Executive of Monaghan County Council Adge King confirmed that the county council was also carrying out an investigation into the contents of the RTÉ Investigation Unit’s programme.
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