Ex-county manager accused over response to illegal dump claims

Eddie Sheehy accepts there were ‘significant discrepancies’ in letter to department

Retired county manager Eddie Sheehy was cross-examined, for the second day, in a High Court case over illegal dumping. Photograph: Frank Miller

Retired county manager Eddie Sheehy was cross-examined, for the second day, in a High Court case over illegal dumping. Photograph: Frank Miller

 

The retired Wicklow county manager was accused in court on Wednesday of presiding over a dishonest response to the European Commission when the county council was notified formally it was responsible for, and condoned, illegal dumping.

Eddie Sheehy said he accepted only that there were “discrepancies” in the council’s response conveyed to the Department of the Environment.

Mr Sheehy was being cross-examined, for the second day, in a High Court case in which Brownfield Restoration (Ireland) Ltd is suing the council in relation to illegal dumping at a site in west Wicklow for which the company claims the council is partly responsible.

Counsel for Brownfield, Peter Bland SC, asked Mr Sheehy about a letter, dated December 10th, 2002, from the council’s director of services Michael Nicholson, in response to a formal notification from the commission about an illegal dump at Whitestown which the commission said had been “condoned and tolerated” by the local authority.

The council had inspected the site on three occasions in 1998, and again in 2000, and on each inspection found evidence of illegal dumping, including 2,000 mounds of waste 10 metres high.

Mr Nicholson’s letter said that when visited by council staff, “there was no obvious evidence that the site was being used for any waste handling or disposal activities”.

Mr Bland said this was wrong and false.

“As a man who says that he gives the whole truth and full, open and transparent evidence to the court, you have to agree that that is wrong,” said Mr Bland.

“There certainly are significant discrepancies,” replied Mr Sheehy.

Cleaning up

Donal O Laoire

At the meeting, Mr Sheehy maintains he told Mr O Laoire to drop the notion of the private company. Mr Bland said Mr Sheehy’s account of the meeting was “peculiar”.

“First,” said Mr Bland, “there was nobody else present, not the director of services to whom Mr O Laoire was reporting, no notetaker – the county manager one-on-one with Donal O Laoire. That was peculiar was it not?. . . Is it not surprising that you did not have Mr Nicholson present or the law agent present?”

“No. No,” said Mr Sheehy, denying any peculiarity.

“It’s peculiar that you wrote no letter to him afterwards, confirming a specific direction from the county manager not to proceed with a proposal that was a potential conflict of interest, in your words, or otherwise could be seen as being corrupt.”

Mr Sheehy replied: “It’s one of the greatest regrets that I have in relation to my career in the public service that I didn’t write and if I did, I’d have a record. Unfortunately, I didn’t.”

The case continues on Friday.