Former Wicklow County Council manager to appear in High Court

Case centres on allegation council failed to remediate illegal dump in west Wicklow

 Former manager of Wicklow County Council Eddie Sheehy. Photograph: Frank Miller/The Irish Times

Former manager of Wicklow County Council Eddie Sheehy. Photograph: Frank Miller/The Irish Times

 

Retired manager of Wicklow County Council Eddie Sheehy has been asked to appear at the High Court in Dublin next Tuesday following allegations in court that he was “up to his neck in corruption”.

Mr Justice Richard Humphreys directed that between now and then, lawyers in the case, current and former employees of the council and anyone else with knowledge as to what was said in court about Mr Sheehy, should not contact him or discuss the allegations with him.

He said reporting restrictions did not apply to media present in court.

Brownfield Restoration (Ireland) Ltd is suing the council, alleging that it has failed to remediate an illegal dump on land the company now owns, in contravention of promises made to an earlier High Court hearing, now adjourned.

On Wednesday, the High Court heard from a former authorised officer of the council – independent environmental consultant Donal O Laoire who now works for the United Nations – that Mr Sheehy and the director of services at the council, Michael Nicholson, were involved with him in a plan to set up a private company which would then benefit from work to be given to it by the council to clean up an illegal dump at Whitestown in west Wicklow.

It was also stated in court that Mr Sheehy and Mr Nicholson had tried to cover up the council’s involvement in the plan and that Mr Sheehy had given “false” information to gardaí.

Much of Thursday’s proceedings centred around a meeting between Mr O Laoire and Mr Sheehy in the summer of 2002. At the meeting, it is alleged Mr Sheehy said he had “lost confidence” in Mr Nicholson, wanted Mr O Laoire to deal with him through another official, a Mr Duffy, and wanted to put distance between the council and the private company.

After this meeting, there was “omertà, plausible deniability,” Peter Bland SC for Brownfield Restoration Ltd said to Mr O Laoire, “because Mr Sheehy told you he was nervous of visibility”.

He continued: “The council went to extraordinary lengths thereafter to hide its encouragement, before and after that meeting, of this proposal. The things that the council did to try and hide that history include Mr Nicholson denying knowledge of the project to gardaí, Mr Nicholson encouraging you to sue for defamation, Mr Nicholson encouraging Mr [Gerry] Carty [enforcement officer at the Environmental Protection Agency] to sue for defamation, Mr Nicholson threatening defamation himself . . . the manager claiming in evidence that he directed you to stop, the encouragement and pressure put on you to give evidence corresponding to that of the manager – all of this was done, you put it yesterday, to protect the integrity of the process.

‘More accurate way’

“I am putting it to you that the fairer and more accurate way to put it is that all this was done to cover up the Wicklow County Council involvement and encouragement in this venture. Isn’t that fair?”

Mr O Laoire said he was not aware of a cover up but what Mr Bland outlined “looks like a cover up”.

“Well, if it walks like a cover up . . .” said Mr Bland.

Mr Bland mentioned litigation in 2009 and said to Mr O Laoire: “People in the council knew that they had to hide what they had done. You had to go to the High Court to give evidence consistent with the manager that you knew to be untrue.”

“Yes,” replied Mr O Laoire.

When he gave evidence in 2009, he was not to be in court when Mr Sheehy gave his evidence but overnight, he was “furnished with a transcript of Mr Sheehy’s evidence” by someone in the council, in contravention of the direction of the judge in that case.

“The transcript was sent to me overnight which really threw me. I was shocked,” said Mr O Laoire. He agreed that “pressure was on you to co-ordinate your evidence with Mr Sheehy”.

“Yes,” said Mr O Laoire.

At the end of his evidence on Thursday, counsel for Wicklow County Council, James Connolly SC, said he had no questions for Mr O Laoire.

The case continues.