Queenan: ‘SIPO report finds I did not seek money for my work as a councillor’

A Sligo councillor is highlighting a finding by the Standards in Public Office Commission that he did not seek money from anyone for his work as a councillor.

It follows a report issued yesterday by SIPO following an investigation into the actions of Cllr Joe Queenan after his appearance in December 2015 in an RTE investigates programme.

In a statement issued today, Cllr Queenan gave his reaction to the SIPO report.

He said: “In December 2015 an RTE Investigates programme was broadcast alleging that I had offered to lobby on behalf of a fictitious wind farm company in exchange for money. In the intervening years I and my family have been put through immense scrutiny, abuse and costs as a result of the publicity and allegations made by RTÉ including defending myself before a Standards in Public Office Commission hearing.

“Nearly three and a half years later the Report of the Standards in Public Office Commission has now been published and it states that I did not contravene Section 170 of the Local Government Act i.e. that I did not seek assurances of payment or indicate a willingness to provide assistance as a member of the local authority in return for payment.

“In my conversations with the undercover reporter in the RTÉ broadcast I stated that ‘the way I work, anything you ask me to do I will do for the benefit of Sligo, that it would bring more wind farms to Sligo and it would bring more income for the Council and that I don’t want any fee for anything I would do’. This was, is and will always be my position.

“I appear to have been singled out by RTÉ because I failed to fill in an ethics declaration form properly in February 2015. This occurred at a time where I was Chairman of the newly amalgamated Sligo Borough Council and Sligo County Council and we were about to welcome a Royal visit to County Sligo. Under the stress of the office I signed a completely blank form and submitted it in error. The forms submitted by me in previous years were always filled in completely. I acknowledged this oversight and error as soon as it was brought to my attention in December 2015.

“My role as a public representative includes bringing investment to the Council and guiding individuals and companies through the pre-planning process. I never sought any money for this, and I never would. I will always meet with any company or organisation with an interest in creating jobs in my community. When I got a call from the undercover RTE reporter I regarded meeting with her as I would regard any such meeting, a genuine opportunity for job creation and investment in County

“I am glad that the Standards in Public Office Commission acknowledges that I did not breach Section 170, did not seek money from any person other than the County Council for my work as a County Councillor.

“With regard to the breach of Section 171, in December 2015 I had admitted to inadvertently breaching Section 171 as I had signed and submitted a completely blank ethics declaration form by mistake in 2015.

“I do not agree with the report’s findings with regard to Section 168 and 169 of the Local Government Act.

“I have always taken my responsibility as a councillor very seriously and as an elected member my commitment has always been to my community, to creating jobs, encouraging local investment and to the people of Sligo.”