FG councillor apologises for calling political opponent a liar

Cllr Alan Tobin agreed to pay €5,000 to charity and to cover Cllr Joe Bonner’s legal costs

A Fine Gael councillor has apologised to a political opponent for calling him a liar at a meeting almost two years ago.

At a meeting of Meath County Council on Monday, Ashbourne-based Fine Gael councillor Alan Tobin read an apology into the record over remarks he had made about Independent councillor Joe Bonner, who is also from Ashbourne, at a meeting of the local authority in November 2020.

Cllr Tobin told the meeting: “On the 24th of November 2020, I spoke at a special meeting of Meath County Council. During the course of my contribution I referred to Cllr Bonner as a liar and stated that he told lies.

“This is untrue and I apologise for the words spoken by me about Cllr Bonner. I should not have said this about Cllr Bonner and I regret any upset this may have caused him and his family. I wish to formally withdraw the comments made by me concerning Cllr Bonner in this chamber.”

The dispute had reached Circuit Court level and, initially, Cllr Tobin submitted the allegations were made in the course of a robust debate in the council chamber, but it was established there was no debate going on at the time he made them.

As part of the settlement, Cllr Tobin has agreed to pay €5,000 to a local St Vincent de Paul group and cover Cllr Bonner’s legal costs.

It is understood that a Fine Gael motion at a meeting of last Friday’s protocol committee of the council to shift Cllr Tobin’s apology down the agenda of the meeting to “any other business (AOB)” section was defeated.

One source indicated, “Fine Gael knew AOB would not be discussed until late in the evening where the chamber would be almost empty, but as a court-agreed settlement was already in place stating the apology had to be read at a full council meeting, it was decided that could not be done.’’

It is the second apology issued by a Fine Gael councillor in the Meath East constituency of Minister for Justice Helen McEntee in recent months. Previously, councillor Paddy Meade had issued defamation proceedings against party colleague Sharon Tolan over her social media post, which wrongly suggested Cllr Meade had parked his car in a disabled parking bay. Subsequently, the party’s head office mediated in that dispute, which ended when Cllr Tolan tweeted an apology admitting her original post was incorrect.