Updated: 27/04/18 : 15:07:45
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Sligo Councillor to appear before SIPO later this year

A Sligo County Councillor, Joe Queenan, one of three county councillors who featured in the RTÉ Investigates Standards in Public Office programme in December 2015, is to be called before the Standards in Public Office Commission (SIPO) for public hearings later this year.

SIPO has issued three statements this morning, (Friday) announcing that it will hold public hearings for the purposes of its investigation into the alleged contraventions of the Ethical Frameworks for the Local Government Service by Cllr Queenan, Cllr John O'Donnell of Donegal County Council and Cllr Hugh McElvaney of Monaghan County Council.

The public hearings will be held at the offices of SIPO in Dublin. Cllr Joe Queenan will appear on  Monday, September 10; Cllr John O'Donnell will appear on Tuesday, September 11 and Cllr Hugh McElvaney will be before SIPO on Monday, September 17.

The hearings before the six-member commission will decide if the politicians breached the ethical framework under the Local Government Act 2001.  

This framework sets the rules for what councillors must declare and forbids them from accepting third-party payment for their work as a public representative.

In the RTÉ Investigates programme all three men were secretly filmed during individual meetings with an undercover researcher.

The researcher purported to be working on behalf of international windfarm financiers, a fictitious company 'Vinst Opportunities'. Each of the councillors agreed to meet the researcher.

The three councillors were contacted following a wider investigation by the programme team into the non-disclosure of assets by politicians across the country.

Joe Queenan, a former mayor of Sligo and a current serving elected member of the county council, resigned the Fianna Fáil party whip and apologised to the people of Sligo immediately after the programme.

The undercover footage of his meeting included his commitment to work for the windfarm project and he suggested that if the investors were interested in other projects they could lend him money for his own business.

Following the broadcast he went on radio and claimed he was only speaking about a hypothetical situation in relation to his financing requirements and labelled the filming as a "sting".

         Joe Queenan, John O'Donnell and Hugh McElvaney will be before SIPO in September

John O'Donnell, an independent member of Donegal County Council, was first elected in 2014.

When he met the undercover reporter he offered to work "tirelessly" on behalf of the investors but stressed that he would have to be paid through a business partner as he did not want to be seen to be associated with a controversial windfarm.

Mr O'Donnell later claimed that he had been speaking in his capacity as a businessman and not as a local councillor.

Fine Gael stalwart Hugh McElvaney resigned the party whip after he was notified of the impending broadcast of the RTÉ Investigates programme in 2015.

During a meeting with the undercover reporter the veteran councillor explicitly sought cash payments in sterling denominations in exchange for working for the investors. He said he would not seek payment if the project was not successful.  

This had followed a short introductory phone call in which he pitched the services he could provide.

In media interviews immediately before the broadcast and shortly afterwards Mr McElvaney claimed he went into the encounter with the undercover researcher in the knowledge that it was a sting and he was eager to play along.

Earlier this year he was listed on the Revenue Commissioner's list of tax defaulters and was hit with a bill of just under €50,000 for tax, penalties and interest.

All three councillors still hold their seats on their respective local authorities sitting as independent members.