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Councillor secretly filmed by RTÉ loses court bid to block SIPO inquiry

Justice Garrett Simons said he was satisfied “to dismiss the application in its entirety.”

McElvaney was secretly filmed as part of a documentary.
McElvaney was secretly filmed as part of a documentary.
Image: RTÉ

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 RTÉ’s Primetime Programme. 

The action was brought by Monaghan County Councillor Hugh McElvaney, who is the subject of 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 using the name “Nina Carlson” posed as a representative of a foreign investment firm looking for their support for a fictitious wind farm development.

Cllr McElveaney brought High Court judicial review proceedings last year claiming that SiPO, which has already held a preliminary inquiry into the matter,  should be stopped in its entirety.

In his judgement this morning, Mr Justice Garrett Simons said he was satisfied “to dismiss the application in its entirety.” 

The decision clears the way for a SiPO inquiry, which had been on hold pending the outcome of the High Court case, to proceed.

The investigation arose following a complaint made to the commission that the councillor had contravened provisions of the 2001 Local Government and the Code of Conduct for Councillors. 

Cllr McElveaney brought High Court 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 had argued 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.

SiPO had opposed the application. 

In a lengthy and detailed ruling, the Judge said that the absence of the undercover reporter did not prejudice the statutory investigation being conducted by SiPO. 

The Judge said what the reporter said was not at issue as it was accepted what she had said 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 Judge added that the councillor’s objection to RTÉ engaging in an impermissible exercise of entrapment was “premature.” 

The Commission he said has made it clear that 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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About the author:

Aodhan O'Faolain & Ray Managh

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