Councillor who owed woman €33,000 was ‘spending lavishly’

Court hears politician who featured on RTÉ Investigates ceased injury claim payments

Donegal Councillor John O’Donnell  filmed in a meeting with an undercover RTÉ reporter. Photograph: RTÉ

Donegal Councillor John O’Donnell filmed in a meeting with an undercover RTÉ reporter. Photograph: RTÉ

 

A Donegal county councillor who appeared in a recent RTÉ Investigates programme has been ordered to pay a compensation order after a court heard how he dined in expensive Dublin restaurants and spent lavishly on clothing.

Independent Cllr John O’Donnell said his “good name” had been ruined as he defended a decision to stop paying money to a woman he drove over 16 years ago.

Cllr O’Donnell’s finances were laid bare at Letterkenny District Civil Court where the politician again claimed to have millions of euro of debts.

Petra Kucklick, a German native from Mill Cottage, Rooskey, Creeslough, sued O’Donnell for an outstanding €33,000 debt from a personal injury claim.

The court heard the councillor had paid €7,600 in 2009 but then stopped making any payments despite a court order.

The politician was at the centre of controversy last December when he appeared on an RTÉ Investigates programme in which he appeared to ask for cash for political favours which he has denied.

He has now begun legal proceedings against RTÉ over the programme.

Ms Kucklick’s barrister Laura O’Reilly, representing the Legal Aid Board, said Ms Kucklick had been awarded personal injury compensation in 2008 and Mr O’Donnell had stopped paying €200 per week in 2009.

The 2008 judgement related to an incident in 2000 in which Mr O’Donnell had driven over the foot of Ms Kucklick at a building site in the county.

The court heard Cllr O’Donnell had still not handed over details of all of his bank accounts.

Cllr O’Donnell was recalled to the witness box by Judge Paul Kelly who warned O’Donnell’s solicitor Kevin McElhinney that his client was in danger of going to jail for failing to comply with the compensation order.

Ms O’Reilly detailed to the court what she said were extravagant expenses. She said updated bank statements showed he spent €960 at Watson’s Menswear in Letterkenny in December just days before the RTÉ programme.

He had also spent hundreds of euro on meals at Café en Seine in Dublin last December and Peploes restaurant in January where the bill was €350.

He had also spent hundreds of euro at hotels and bars in Donegal over the same period, she alleged.

However Cllr O’Donnell said the menswear bill included presents for family and that the food bills had involved him paying bills and a number of friends paying him cash.

He denied owning state-of-the-art cars including a Porche and two BMWs which he appeared to claim ownership of in his Facebook postings.

Cllr O’Donnell insisted he only had his council salary of €32,000 to live on. He claimed banks to which he owed millions of euro had been willing to consider a Personal Insolvency Plan (PIP) but claimed Ms Kucklick had “driven” him to bankruptcy.

The politician said the case against him was intended to “blacken my good name in the media again”.

He said he would apply for bankruptcy next Monday.

Judge Kelly said he was satisfied that while Cllr O’Donnell did have more money in the past that he was not permitted under the law to punish him retrospectively.

He ordered Cllr O’Donnell to pay €100 per week to Ms Kucklick.

“If that isn’t met I will take an entirely different view of the matter,” said the judge.