FG councillor denies €20,000 conflict of interest

Anne Devitt has denied any wrongdoing in relation to receiving €20,000. The Irish Times reports:

Anne Devitt described as outrageous a suggestion that she could be bought and said there was nothing improper in her involvement in the issue.

Ms Devitt was chairwoman of the Northern Area Health Board between 2000 and 2002, at the time she was negotiating access across the health board’s land in Swords on behalf of landowner Joe Moran and his company Rayband Ltd.

In 1993, she signed the motion to rezone Rayband’s property for industry, but this could not be developed because it was landlocked.

The tribunal is investigating allegations by lobbyist Frank Dunlop that he bribed councillors Tom Hand, Cyril Gallagher and Tony Fox to secure the rezoning. Mr Hand and Mr Gallagher are deceased and Mr Fox denies the allegation.

Details of the payment to Ms Devitt in 2002 emerged during Mr Moran’s evidence earlier this week.

Yesterday, Ms Devitt told the tribunal there was no conflict of interest in her work for Mr Moran because health board officials knew at all times that she was acting as a consultant.

The matter had never come up for discussion on the board of the Eastern Regional Health Authority, but if it had she would have withdrawn. “The fact that I’m a member of the health board should not prevent me from acting in my profession,” she told Judge Gerald Keys.

Under the agreement mediated by Ms Devitt, Rayband agreed to build ambulance and patient facilities in return for access across the board’s land. Her role was to “keep the matter moving” and move it up the health board’s list of priorities. She had no role in the planning permission subsequently lodged by Rayband’s architect.

“I would have said to the health board ‘here is an opportunity for us to get badly needed facilities now’ . . . It was a win-win situation.” The workshops on the health board site were dilapidated and the access road a disgrace and a health hazard, she said, so the new facilities would be a tremendous benefit.

“I do not see any conflict of interest in providing facilities for the mentally and physically handicapped in my area.”

Judge Keys had asked Mr Moran if it had not dawned on him that the public could perceive that he was trying to buy Ms Devitt.

Ms Devitt described the suggestion as outrageous. “The only point in buying a person is if they can actually deliver. I wasn’t in a position to deliver, on the council or the health board.”

Ms Devitt has qualifications as a teacher and a solicitor, but said her dealings with Mr Moran were as a consultant. She believed he would have been aware of her knowledge of the intricate workings of the health board. She didn’t think €20,000 was a large amount for the work done, which took over a year.

However, she didn’t have any documents from her work as her computer was stolen in 2003.

She had no involvement in the planning permission lodged following her mediation and she did not influence the decision of the county council, she said