An adviser to Paudie Coffey has told the High Court he discussed the benefits of having a minister in the former Fine Gael TD's constituency with Enda Kenny following a poor local election result for the party.
Paul Fox, who was an adviser to now Senator Coffey, a former junior minister and TD, was giving evidence in his action against Iconic Newspapers over alleged defamation in an article in the Kilkenny People in January 2016.
It carried comments from Fine Gael TD John Paul Phelan describing a proposal to bring part of the Kilkenny administrative area in Waterford city as "daylight robbery".
Mr Phelan said there was a “bloodthirsty” highwayman in Waterford called “Crotty the Robber” and now “Coffey the Robber” was trying to do the same thing. Senator Coffey says that was defamatory but the publisher denies this.
On Thursday, Mr Fox agreed with Rossa Fanning SC, for Iconic, that Senator Coffey had described in court as “outlandish” the suggestion that representations had been made in 2014 to then taoiseach Enda Kenny about appointing him a junior minister. Senator Coffey also said he knew nothing about such representations if they were made.
Mr Fox agreed with counsel that, in light of the poor local election showing, a Fine Gael minister in Waterford would boost both the minister and the constituency. He could not say what “people were advocating to the powers that be” but agreed it would be good for Waterford and Senator Coffey if he was made a minister of state.
Asked by Mr Fanning did he ever say anything along these lines, he said he recalled a conversation with Mr Kenny in the Ginger Man pub in Dublin “over a pint” after the local elections in 2014.
He said he could not exactly recall what was said. “I think I would have made the point yes, it was a bad election for FG in Waterford but I would have conveyed it was something beyond that, it was something more substantial,” he said.
“I might have made the point that if the constituency had a voice the constituency would stand to benefit”.
When Mr Fox said he did not think the taoiseach would have taken to heart what was said to him in terms of a ministerial appointment, Mr Fanning said: “You are underestimating your power.”
Mr Fox said he had not told Senator Coffey about his conversation with Mr Kenny and did not think it would interest him.
Earlier, Mr Fox told the court the boundary review at the the centre of the dispute was an administrative boundary which would affect local elections but not general elections or county boundaries.
He agreed Senator Coffey had been getting negative press coverage elsewhere over his support for the boundary review before the Kilkenny People article.
The case on behalf on Senator Coffey has ended and Mr Phelan will be the first witness called on behalf of the defence when the hearing resumes on Friday.