Monaghan councillor loses court bid to halt ethics inquiry
Posted on 4th September 2019 at 21:34
A county councillor has lost his High Court bid aimed at preventing an ethics inquiry being conducted over comments he made while being secretly filmed by an RTÉ programme.
The action was brought by Monaghan county councillor Hugh McElvaney, who is the subject of the Standards in Public Office (Sipo) Commission investigating whether he breached ethics when he was one of the subjects of an RTÉ Investigates programme aired in 2015.
In it, an undercover researcher posed as a representative of a foreign investment firm looking for their support for a fictitious wind farm development.
In his judgment this morning, Mr Justice Garrett Simons said he was satisfied “to dismiss the application in its entirety”.
The decision clears the way for the Sipo inquiry, which had been on hold pending the outcome of the High Court case, to proceed.
Cllr McElvaney brought judicial review proceedings last year claiming the inquiry into him should be stopped.
Among the claims of the former Fine Gael, now independent, Cllr McElvaney was that he was entrapped by the RTÉ reporter, who would not be available for cross-examination at the hearing of the investigation, and that the inquiry was inadequate.
In his ruling, Mr Justice Simons said the absence of the undercover reporter did not prejudice the statutory investigation being conducted by Sipo. What the reporter had said was not at issue as it was accepted this was fictitious.
What was at issue the judge said was the response of the councillor to what was said.
Sipo, he said, “will have to consider, for example, whether the councillor’s response amounted to a request for remuneration or reward for anything to be done by virtue of his office as an elected member”.
The councillor’s objection to RTÉ engaging in an impermissible exercise of entrapment was “premature”, Mr Justice Simons said.
The commission, he said, has made it clear it has not yet made a determination in respect of the entrapment objection raised by Cllr McElvaney.
The matter was adjourned to a date in October for final orders.
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