Simon Coveney glad Monaghan councillor has left Fine Gael

Hugh McElvaney heard asking undercover reporter: ‘What’s in it for me?’

Speaking after the broadcast of RTÉ investigates program about corrupt Councillors Ministers Simon Coveney and Brendan Howlin give their reactions. Video: Mary Minihan

 

Minister for Agriculture and Defence Simon Coveney has said he is glad Monaghan Councillor Hugh McElvaney no longer represents Fine Gael after watching the RTÉ Investigates programme on political lobbying.

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin said “rogue politicians” should be “run out of public life”.

Mr Coveney said the behaviour shown in the programme was disgraceful and damaging for politics, although the vast majority of local politicians were decent people.

Mr McElvaney was director of elections for local TD Seán Conlan in the 2011 general election, and they both resigned from Fine Gael in recent weeks, stating it was over the issue of pylons.

In the programme, Cllr McElvaney was heard asking an undercover reporter: “What’s in it for me?”

When she asks what he has in mind, he says: “£10,000 would be a start”. He warns her it has to be “utterly confidential – if you let me down, there’ll be war”.

On Shannonside Radio, Mr McElvaney said: “I knew I was being set up . . . I lured her into my trap.”

He said he knew the telephone call was from an undercover reporter, but said he let it continue to play along, otherwise there “would be no show”.

Asked on his way into Cabinet if he was glad Mr McElvaney no longer represented Fine Gael, Mr Coveney said: “Yes I was, very. I don’t want to get into the personalities of last night, but when a councillor or any public representative is behaving like that, looking for money for services they’re elected to provide and paid to provide, that is totally unacceptable and needs to be rooted out of politics.”

Speaking generally about the programme, Mr Coveney said “to be perfectly honest with you I hope the Gardai take up the case in relation to some of the behaviour”.

He said it was really damaging for politics and the way people perceived politicians.

“What we saw last night was blatant corruption and self-centred greed and I think people should call it for what it is,” Mr Coveney said.

Mr Howlin said the findings of the programme were shocking.

“Where we have the occassional rogue politician, and that’s the truth of it, that these people are found out, exposed and run out of public life,” he said.

He said he was gratified Labour councillors had not been involved.

Meanwhile, a Fianna Fáil councillor, Sligo-based councillor Joe Queenan, has resigned from the party after he was filmed offering to act as an intermediary for a company in return for an investment in an agricultural business he was planning.

As part of the programme, RTÉ reporters established a fake wind farm company and approached a number of councillors.

A third councillor, Independent John O’Donnell from Donegal, accused RTÉ of “entrapping” him during an investigation. RTÉ reported he asked for money for help with a wind farm development.