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County Council accused of corruption

County Council accused of corruption

Anton McNulty

Meetings of Mayo County Council have been adjourned indefinitely after Independent councillor Frank Durcan refused to withdraw an allegation that Mayo County Council was corrupt.
The explosive meeting of Mayo County Council, which was held yesterday, was adjourned after Cllr Durcan accused some council officials of corruption and perjury. Cathaoirleach of Mayo County Council, Cllr Austin Francis O’Malley brought an end to the meeting after councillors agreed to adjourn it unless Cllr Durcan withdrew his comments.
Cllr Joe Mellet claimed that the allegations made against the council implied all the councillors were corrupt and he was not part of a corrupt organisation. While Cllr Durcan said he had no problem with the ‘vast majority’ of Council staff or councillors, he refused to withdraw the allegations and implied that some councillors were part of the corruption.
“There has to be collusion with a certain amount of councillors and it will all come out in the wash,” he told the meeting moments before it was adjourned.
The outspoken Castlebar-based councillor followed up on the allegation he made at the January meeting that the council was a ‘corrupt administration’ which should be investigated by the police. He said there was a culture in the country of ‘everything being swept under the carpet’ when in any other country such as the US or the UK, people would be ‘behind bars’.
He also accused an unnamed council official of perjury in the Circuit Court but when he was challenged by his fellow councillors to name names, he said he did not have the privilege to do so.
However, he said he had the necessary proof and challenged the Council Executive to bring him before the National Ethics Committee.

Proof claim

“I can prove this without a shadow of a doubt,” he told the boisterous meeting. “If I get my day in court or if I go before the Ethics Committee I will divulge all the documents and evidence I have from over the last 20 years. I challenge the county secretary and the county manager if they think I cannot prove this to report me to the National Ethics Committee and I will produce the files.”
In the January meeting Cllr Durcan claimed that a former Junior Minister is on record in saying in the Dáil that Mayo County Council is corrupt in terms of planning.
Responding to the allegations, County Secretary John Condon said he wanted to ‘set the record straight’. He pointed out that there were no allegations of corruption against the council in the Dáil records dating back to 1919.
“This year it will be 45 years since he was first elected, and during those 45 years a number of allegations have been made. Of all those allegations not one of them has ever been proven or brought before a court or tribunal,” said Mr Condon.
“The fact is the councillor has made false allegations. I have news for him, corruption is a criminal offence, and if he believes what he has stated it is his duty to report it to the Gardaí and let them do their job. He did on one previous occasion, and the DPP found there was no case to answer. In 45 years he has been making false allegations … he should be in the Guinness Book of Records.”

Remarks condemned
In response Cllr Durcan alleged that the last matter he reported to the gardaí was ‘swept under the carpet’ by the DPP. He accused Mr Condon of telling lies and misleading the public and stated that he was not afraid to stand up to the officials in the council.
The Cathaoirleach of Mayo County Council, Cllr Austin Francis O’Malley struggled to bring order to the meeting. When he threatened to adjourn the meeting, Cllr Durcan replied ‘adjourn it if you like, I will still be standing here when you come back’.
Cllr Durcan’s allegations of corruption against the council were condemned by some other councillors who called on him to withdraw his claims as they implicated all the councillors.
Cllr Al McDonnell said that in his 23 years as a councillor he has never observed corruption in the council and Cllr Gerry Coyle added that Cllr Durcan’s words were ‘way off the mark’ and called on him to withdraw them.
County Manager, Peter Hynes told The Mayo News that the next meeting of the council will be in scheduled March meeting and described this ‘abandoned’ meeting as an ‘appalling and absolute waste of time’.
“One of the items on the agenda was the setting up of Irish Water which is one of the most important changes in local authority in a long time. That deserved debating but the councillors were deprived that debate by the machinations of one councillor.”