Former council manager admits previous evidence was inaccurate

Documents show Eddie Sheehy knew what Donal O Laoire was doing, counsel says

Former Wicklow County Council manager Eddie Sheehy: “My legacy is making Wicklow a no-go area for illegal dumping.” Photograph: Collins

Former Wicklow County Council manager Eddie Sheehy: “My legacy is making Wicklow a no-go area for illegal dumping.” Photograph: Collins

 

The retired manager of Wicklow County Council, Eddie Sheehy, has acknowledged in the High Court that sworn evidence he gave at an earlier, separate High Court hearing was “inaccurate”.

Mr Sheehy was being pressed by Peter Bland SC, counsel for Brownfield Restoration (Ireland) Limited, which is suing Wicklow County Council over an illegal dump at Whitestown.

Mr Bland read from letters, emails, briefing notes and notes of meetings, many of them previously undisclosed by the council. They were obtained by Brownfield through discovery and use of the Freedom of Information Act, as well as from affidavits and court transcripts. He said these showed that Mr Sheehy was fully aware of what Donal O Laoire, an authorised officer of the council retained to advise on how to clean up the dump, had been doing.

The court has heard that in April 2002, Mr O Laoire proposed that a private company, set up by him, would be contracted by the council to clean up the dump and that the council would be reimbursed by suing the dumpers.

Mr Sheehy has insisted he told him to desist with his plan because of his conflict of interest. However, there is no independent evidence of this and Mr O Laoire continued putting it together, including by having discussions with Wicklow officials and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Full knowledge

Problems with what Mr O Laoire was doing, which he maintains was with the full knowledge of senior council officials including Mr Sheehy, resulted in Brownfield making complaints to the council in 2006 and to then environment minister Dick Roche. These led to criminal and civil litigation cases, all of which were discussed among council officials.

Mr Bland told Mr Sheehy that Mr O Laoire had acknowledged to him at a meeting in 2007 that what Brownfield was alleging about him was true, a position Mr O Laoire confirmed in a follow-up letter to Mr Sheehy.

“And you told the High Court in 2009 that there was no evidence that he did any of these things,” said Mr Bland, adding later: “But you knew that was false and as a man who has come into this court and accused others of perjury, I want you to think about what we know now, with the evidence that you gave in 2009.”

The barrister accused Mr Sheehy of being involved in a cover-up and asked him if he gave the High Court honest, truthful evidence. Did he not tell the High Court that he was not aware that Mr O Laoire had a financial interest in his proposal for the dump, he was asked.

“If some of what I said was inaccurate, then I have to accept responsibility for that and I do, if it was inaccurate,” said Mr Sheehy.

Saturated waste

Mr Bland pressed Mr Sheehy to explain why he told the High Court in 2009 that he had “no evidence” that Mr O Laoire was involved in a consortium to clean up the dump when Mr O Laoire had told him he was and put it in writing.

“I can’t explain it,” said Mr Sheehy. “I accept that my answers were not accurate. But I would reiterate that there was no attempt to cover up.”

Of the Whitestown dump, 98 per cent of which remains in situ, Mr Bland said: “This is your legacy, Mr Sheehy. Thousands of tonnes of waste left behind, rotting in the sand, saturated waste leaching into the ground water and asbestos blowing in the wind.”

Mr Sheehy said: “My legacy is making Wicklow a no-go area for illegal dumping to such an extent that the dumpers went north of the Border instead of driving south to Wicklow. That’s my legacy, Mr Bland, and I’m very proud of it.”

The case continues.