What troubles me is that they know there is a potential conflict of interest, they just don’t seem to want to admit it.
A Fine Gael county councillor was paid €20,000 for her help in solving a road access problem for a landowner in north County Dublin, the tribunal has heard.
Cllr Anne Devitt received the fee in 2002 for negotiating access to the land across property owned by the Eastern Health Board. At the time, she was a member of the EHB, the tribunal heard.
Details of the payment to Ms Devitt emerged yesterday during evidence given by businessman Joe Moran, whose company Rayband Ltd owned the land at Lissenhall near Swords. In 1993, Ms Devitt signed a motion while on Dublin County Council to rezone Rayband’s land for industry.
Paul Cullen of the Irish Times continues:
Yesterday, the inquiry heard that Mr Moran sought to gain access to the road through the EHB land because his property was landlocked. The company paid Ms Devitt the money in June 2002, after it agreed access through the EHB land in return for building ambulance and day-patient facilities.
Mr Moran said Ms Devitt had provided professional advice and legal services. She had portrayed herself as someone who could solve the problem. She had a reputation for solving problems.
Judge Gerald Keys said Ms Devitt was a politician and there was a potential conflict of interest.
Mr Moran replied that Ms Devitt didn’t do anything wrong.
Judge Keys: “Did it not cross your mind there was something questionable about being prepared to pay a substantial sum of money to a politician who was a member of the council, who would be close to the planning department, who was already instrumental in voting on zoning motions and also a member of the health board, which could come to your assistance?” Mr Moran: “No.”
Judge Keys: “Did it not dawn on you there could be a serious conflict of interest and that the public perception could be that what you were trying to do was to buy her?” Mr Moran: “Absolutely not.” Everything was above board and there were no under the counter payments.
He agreed that Ms Devitt, who is due to give evidence to the inquiry tomorrow, never provided him with written advice.