Private investigator found no trace of objector to Supermac’s rival in Galway
Woman ‘not living’ at address from which letter opposing Eyre Square outlet was sent
Pat McDonagh of Supermac’s. File photograph: Joe O’Shaughnessy
Letters purporting to come from the occupant of a property owned by Pat McDonagh of Supermac’s objecting to a competing fast food outlet proposed for Eyre Square in Galway was the subject of a private investigation which could not find the alleged objector living at the address given.
The proposal for a fast food outlet at No 30 Eyre Square was made in 2012 in the name of BEB Practical Property Partnership.
Supermac’s, a fast food franchise founded by Mr McDonagh, has an established outlet at No 36 Eyre Square. The proposal for No 30, a former branch of National Irish Bank, was for a competing fast food outlet, named Hillbilly’s family restaurant.
When the Hillbilly’s plan was being considered by Galway City Council, objections were submitted from an Ashling O’Doherty who gave an address at “24 Eyre Square Townhouses”.
No 24, and at least five other apartments in this development, were owned at the time by Mr McDonagh.
On behalf of BEB, a private investigating company, Premier Investigations Insurance and Legal Services, sought to deliver a letter to Ms O’Doherty at this address but was not able to.
According to a report, dated February 5th 2013 and written by Áine O’Friel of Premier Investigations, the actual occupant of No 24 Eyre Square Townhouses, was not Ashling O’Doherty but one Tony O’Brien who told Ms O’Friel that “Ashling O’Doherty was not living at the address and that he had been living there since September 2012”.
Ms O’Friel added: “He said that he did not know nor did he have a forwarding address for Aishling [sic] O’Doherty.”
A fast food outlet eventually obtained planning permission but No 30 is now a branch of the Caffè Nero franchise.
Meanwhile, it has emerged an environmental consultant, Howard Williams, chief executive of Inis Environmental Consultants Ltd, wrote a personal letter of support for Mr McDonagh’s Supermac’s motorway service station plans for the M18 near Ennis in Co Clare.
Inis was retained by Mr McDonagh to assist with the Ennis planning application, including carrying out a bat survey.
Mr Williams’ name also appears among the 180 or so alleged letters sent to Clare Council purporting to support the planning application for the M18 service station. But the address given – 25 Cloonbeg, Shanballa Estate, Lahinch Road – while registered as owned by Mr Williams is not the address at which he resides.
In his report which formed part of the planning application, Mr Williams is described as “the principal ecologist on the current assessment, [who] designed all surveys and was responsible for the production of the final report”.
Questions to Mr Williams – sent to him by email and text last week and again yesterday – went unanswered. However, he told Clare FM on Tuesday he had no part in generating the letters and was merely the delivery man.
He said he was not hired by Mr McDonagh to orchestrate a campaign of support for the service station plan. Mr McDonagh has said that he (Mr McDonagh) agreed to underwrite the €20 fee for each of the letters of support submitted.
Mr Williams has admitted being the person who delivered the 180 or so supportive letters to Clare County Council offices.
At least 40 of the people in whose names the letters were submitted under forged signatures have said they did not submit letters. One was submitted in the name of a dead person and contained a signature.
Mr McDonagh has described what happened as “illegal” and said it was nothing to do with him or Supermac’s. In a recent RTÉ radio interview he also said letters would not influence the ultimate decision on his service plan planning application.
“The letters weren’t dealing with planning issues,” he said. “They were dealing with, they were letters of support . . . so there was no planning issues raised in it. The planning process is not influenced by letters of support.”
A series of questions to Mr McDonagh’s public relations spokesman yesterday went unanswered.