At first glance, the case of Cllr. Michael Fahy dealt with today at the Circuit Criminal Court in Galway today, is straight forward.
Cllr Fahy was convicted of obtaining €7,000 by false pretences in 2002 and the attempted theft of €7,500 in 2003 as well as five other charges of deception and false accounting. But as always in Ireland there is more to the story than meets the eye.
Fahy committed the fraud in 2001 and when council engineers suspected something was wrong an internal investigation was initiated which found that the Council was out to the tune of €7,000. In a properly functioning jurisdiction the next step would be to inform the police. But as with the Friends First fraud, (See below) that is not how things are done in Ireland.
Instead, Cllr. Fahy was summoned by the County Manager in Galway County Council, Donal O’Donaghue and told that he would have to repay the €7,000. In addition, because of what he had done, he would have to make a contribution to a local charity.
In other words, the theft of €7,000 of taxpayer’s money by a local politician was being covered up by the local authority. In a properly functioning jurisdiction this ‘arrangement’ would be seen and dealt with as a serious crime in itself.
Cllr. Fahy repaid the €7,000 and donated €3,000 to the local Lourdes Invalid Fund and there the matter rested.
In June 2004, Brian McDonald, West of Ireland correspondent for the Irish Independent, got wind of the story and submitted an FOI request for documents concerning Cllr. Michael Fahy – The story was out.
Once again, justice was only done because of good investigative journalism. What I find amazing is how the massive elephant in the room can be ignored. Time after time corruption is covered up, arrangements are made, deals are done and, for the most part, all this is seen as perfectly normal.