NEWS

Cllr John O’Donnell censured by Donegal County Council over SIPO report

Independent councillor fails to attend special meeting

Declan Magee

Reporter:

Declan Magee

Email:

declan.magee@donegaldemocrat.com

Cllr John O’Donnell censured by Donegal County Council over SIPO report

Members of Donegal County Council have passed a motion censuring Cllr John O’Donnell

Members of Donegal County Council have passed a motion censuring Cllr John O’Donnell and removing him from some of the committees that he sits on following a report from the Standards in Public Office Commission (SIPO).

The meeting was called to discuss the report which found Cllr O'Donnell had contravened ethics legislation.

Before passing the motion councillors were told that they had no power to suspend or remove him from office.

The Independent councillor was probed by SIPO after he appeared in an RTÉ Investigates programme broadcast in November 2015 in which he was secretly filmed having discussions with an undercover reporter purporting to be proposing a wind farm project.

The SIPO investigation found against Cllr O’Donnell in respect of all three of the alleged contraventions.

The special meeting had been called by Cathaoirleach Seamus Ó Domhnaill following requests from Sinn Féin and Cllr Frank McBrearty.

Cllr O’Donnell did not attend the meeting in County House in Lifford this morning.

The motion to censure him was passed unanimously by the 21 councillors, out of a total of 37,  who attended the meeting.

Councillors debated the report on Cllr O’Donnell after receiving legal advice from County Solicitor Patrick McMullin which stated that there is no provision for the council to suspend or remove Cllr O’Donnell as a member.

Mr McMullin’s advice said the submission of such an “adverse report” is “not a ground for automatic disqualification” from the council.

Options open to the council include accepting the SIPO report findings, voicing the collective disapproval of Cllr O’Donnell’s actions and passing a motion “formally censuring him,” he said.

The motion of censure and removal from all committees with the exception of strategic policy committees, which the councillors do not have the power  to remove him from, was proposed by Cllr Frank McBrearty and Cllr Marie Therese Gallagher (SF). The motion also called on him to send written apologies to councillors and council staff.

During the meeting councillors stressed that they were powerless to remove Cllr O'Donnell from the council and expressed disappointment that he had not attended the meeting.

Following the publication of the report last month the Kilmacrennan-based councillor said he was disappointed at the findings of the SIPO investigation and insisted that his record in serving the people of Donegal “has not been tarnished”.

He said he his record will be judged by the electorate of the Milford area in the local elections.