Court places stay on investigation into Kerry county councillor

Breandan Fitzgerald from Dingle faces allegations over vote on draft local area plan

Cllr Breandán Fitzgerald from Dingle, who represents the Castleisland-Corca Dhuibhne electoral area in Co Kerry.

Cllr Breandán Fitzgerald from Dingle, who represents the Castleisland-Corca Dhuibhne electoral area in Co Kerry.

 

The High Court has placed a temporary stay on an investigation being conducted by Kerry County Council into a complaint made against one of its elected members.

The stay was granted by Mr Justice Charles Meenan in favour of Cllr Breandán Fitzgerald from Dingle, who represents the Castleisland-Corca Dhuibhne electoral area in Co Kerry.

The High Court heard he is the subject of an investigation, under Ethics Legislation, arising out of a complaint made against the Fianna Fáil councillor earlier this year.

The allegation relates arises to Cllr Fitzgerald voting on an aspect of a draft local area plan for Corca Dhuibhne.

The councillor strongly denies any wrongdoing and says he has no interest nor any connection with the lands that were the subject of the vote.

He also claims that he absented himself on two previous votes on other aspects of the draft local area plan, as he had a family connection with those particular lands.

The investigation, which Cllr Fitzgerald fully co-operated with, was initially carried out by the council’s cathaoirleach Cllr Jimmy Moloney and chief executive Moira Murrell, who prepared a draft report into the allegation.

The court heard that it was now accepted that the cathaoirleach should not have been involved in the process due to a conflict of interest.

Cllr Fitzgerald’s counsel Elizabeth Murphy Bl, instructed by solicitor Paul O’Donoghue, told the High Court that her client intends to seek permission to bring High Court judicial review proceedings against Kerry County Council aimed at stopping the investigation.

The council had proposed that the cathaoirleach should be substituted by the council’s leas-cathaoirleach Cllr Michael Cahill, and that the chief executive would continue to participate in the investigation counsel said.

Cllr Fitzgerald’s case is that Ms Murrell continued involvement is in breach of fair procedures, breaches his rights, and should be halted by an order of the High Court.

The investigation should be recommenced and conducted by two new persons; it is claimed.

Counsel said that despite her client’s objections, the council intends to continue with the investigation with Ms Murrell as one of the investigators.

As a result, counsel said her cleint was asking the court to put a temporary stay on the investigation from proceeding pending Cllr Fitzgerald’s application for leave to bring his challenge could be heard.

After considering submissions from counsel Mr Justice Meenan said he was prepared, on an ex-parte basis, to place a stay on the investigation from proceedings.

The stay, the judge added is to remain in place until the matter returns before the court in two weeks’ time.

If the respondent wishes to have the stay lifted, the judge said, they may make an application to the court on 48 hours’ notice to Cllr Fitzgerald.