Councillor filmed asking for “loads of money” during secret meeting

Hugh Mc Elvaney
Hugh Mc Elvaney

A county councillor can be heard on tape seeking a Stg£10,000 payment to assist a company with planning permission for a windfarm.

Cllr Hugh McElvaney sought the cash after being approached by an undercover reporter, posing as a UK businesswoman.

A recording of the Monaghan politician asking for "sterling on the table" is to be aired tonight as part of an 'RTÉ Investigates' documentary focusing on the ethical standards of politicians.

He was one of three councillors who agreed to help the undercover reporter with her efforts to secure planning for a fictitious company.

Donegal Independent John O'Donnell was recorded saying he would be paid for this work through another person.

John O'Donnell

Sligo Fianna Fáil representative Joe Queenan agreed to help, but did not ask for a payment. All three have denied any wrongdoing.

Joe Queenan

Cllr McElvaney can be heard saying: "You need to sweeten the man up, you know what I mean ... You would need to put sterling on the table."

Asked how much he wanted, he was recorded replying: "Ten grand would be a start."

He added: "If the money is in the bag, the keener I will be."

At a subsequent meeting, videotaped using a hidden camera, he said he was "only fooling" about the £10,000, that he didn't know how much he would want and he would get paid only if the project was a success. "If it is successful for you, I want loads of money," he said.

Cllr McElvaney last night denied any wrongdoing, claiming he knew it was a "sting" but went along with it, as he wanted to expose what he described as an RTÉ "dirty tricks campaign" against him. "I had to make it as juicy as possible or there would be no show and I had to make it quite sexy so I answered all her questions to make her interested," he told the Irish Independent.

"It takes nerves of steel to do this. I have certainly incriminated myself but I had to do this to expose RTÉ. That's the type of man I am. Everyone knows I would never take a bribe."

Mr McElvaney said he initially went along with it, as he wanted to gather information for his local anti-pylon organisation. He said since he was contacted by RTÉ about the documentary he alerted his local garda station.

He also claimed he was set up by "dark forces" within politics.

Cllr McElvaney quit Fine Gael last month. However, he claims this was coincidental and that his departure was due to his opposition to pylons.

Meanwhile, Letterkenny-based Cllr John O'Donnell was recorded on video saying he was willing to "work quietly" on behalf of the fictitious company.

When asked if he wanted to be paid, he said he required "nothing to do a small section of work".

But he said that at a later point the company could sit down with another individual.

"I'll get paid through him," he said, adding that the arrangement was for "my protection".

A statement issued on behalf of Cllr O'Donnell said his reference to a payment was made on the basis that he as a businessman might be participating in any project that materialised from work he would be completing as a businessman.

Any payments for such work would be dealt with by a professional team he was putting together and strictly in accordance with the law and ethics disclosure procedures.

In Sligo, Fianna Fáil councillor Joe Queenan was recorded saying he was willing to act "as a link man or a go-between" for the fictitious company's architects and the local authority.

Cllr Queenan said he wanted confidentiality and was not looking for a payment.

A statement issued by solicitors acting on behalf of Cllr Queenan said: "Our client was not corrupt and repeatedly said he did not want a fee."