Judge accuses Fianna Fáil councillor of telling ‘a pack of lies’

Alan O’Callaghan said a Nigerian friend and not him drove 4x4 when it was seen speeding

Fianna Fáil Cllr Alan  O’Callaghan, a member of Clare County Council, was fined €750 and banned from driving for a year.

Fianna Fáil Cllr Alan O’Callaghan, a member of Clare County Council, was fined €750 and banned from driving for a year.

 

Gordon Deegan

A judge has accused a Fianna Fáil councillor of telling “a pack of lies” and wriggling “like a worm at the end of a hook” after he claimed a friend was driving his 4x4 when the vehicle was recorded breaking the speed limit.

Judge Patrick Durcan told Ennis District Court that Alan O’Callaghan engaged in “a common scam” after receiving a Fixed Charge Penalty Notice over the offence.

Garda Seamus Gleeson said that after Mr O’Callaghan received the penalty notice he claimed “a Paul Roche from the Republic of Nigeria” was driving his 2006 BMW X5 when the vehicle was detected speeding on June 1st, 2016 at Dough, Lahinch. The vehicle was travelling at 76km/h in a 50km/h zone.

Garda Gleeson said Mr O’Callaghan’s claim attracted the interest of the investigation unit and it was established after a photo was examined that he had been driving the vehicle on the day. Garda Gleeson later met Mr O’Callaghan and showed him the blown-up photo which indicated that he was driving.

Mr O’Callaghan (41), of Rosroe, Kilmurry, Sixmilebridge, paid the speeding fine but was subsequently charged with making a false nomination.

The accused, a member of Clare County Council, changed his plea midway through Friday’s proceedings from not guilty to guilty of making a false nomination of a driver caught speeding.

Judge Durcan on Friday banned Mr O’Callaghan from driving for one year and imposed a €750 fine.

‘Common scam’

“Mr O’Callaghan has wriggled like a worm at the end of a hook until basically confronted in this court with the reality,” he said. “Basically he was engaged in what is becoming a common scam to get out of having to pay and deal with a Fixed Charge Penalty Notice.”

He added: “Let’s call a spade a spade and forget about shovels. That is what this is all about - ‘nominate a friend from Nigeria and drive off’ - but he was caught.”

Judge Durcan told Mr O’Callaghan’s solicitor Stiofán Fitzpatrick that his client had “told a pack of lies”.

Mr Fitzpatrick said Mr O’Callaghan’s “friend, Mr Roche was present and using his vehicle at the time”. His client had spoken to his friend who said he was driving the vehicle on that day.

“Mr O’Callaghan’s instruction to me that is this was his honest belief at the time when he filled out the nomination that he wasn’t the driver,” Mr Fitzpatrick said.

In response, Judge Durcan said: “I am satisfied that he engaged in this scam in regard to the Fixed Charge Penalty Notice system and his approach is nothing short of contemptible.”

Mr Fitzpatrick said that his client drives for a living and has his own fuel delivery business and also operates a pub.

Speaking outside court after the case, Mr O’Callaghan said he would be appealing the severity of the driving ban to the circuit court. He said he “100 per cent absolutely denies” the judge’s assertion that he was involved in a scam.

Reacting to the judgement, a Fianna Fáil spokesman said: “While this is a personal and private matter for Mr O’Callaghan, Fianna Fáil considers the judgement given to be serious and will give it due consideration.”