The owner of Supermacs has strongly refuted any suggestion that the company was behind dozens of faked letters submitted to a local authority in support of their planning application.
His comments come as it emerged that some letters supporting the fast food chain's planning application to Clare County Council for a service station were fake. In one case, it emerged that the named person died nearly 15 years ago.
"We the undersigned want to offer our full support to Mr Pat McDonagh for his recent planning submission for a motorway service station," began a letter which was signed by Clarecastle resident Paddy Russell, who passed away in 2003.
Mr Russell's daughter, Ann Marie, was upset when she learned of the use of her father's name and address and informed the local authority.
Clare County Council received 187 submissions, most from Clarecastle, in support of the proposed service station in the area. At least 40 people have since confirmed they did not send the letters.
Supermacs owner Pat McDonagh said he was "horrified" that letters were sent without the permission of those named on them.
"We are equally as horrified, shocked and annoyed as Ann Marie Russell that innocent, decent people, their names have been used on this application without our permission and without their permission," he told Drivetime on RTÉ Radio 1.
"We’re quite annoyed over it. It’s not right – it’s illegal to use people’s names without their permission."
Mr McDonagh emphasised that Supermacs had no part in the sending of the letters of support.
"Of course we were delighted that there was going to be local support because there were some local objections as well. How it turned out isn’t how we would have liked it.
Mr McDonagh said the company was approached by local residents asking for their €20 application fees to be reimbursed, which it agreed to.
"Some weeks ago, we were offered support by locals for the application. We thought initially that it was a signed letter of support from everyone, but then they decided it was better to have individual observations."
"It would appear that whoever organised the petition realised that there was a fee payable of €20 for each observation.
However no money has been paid by the company to date," he added.
Recently, nine businesses which are members of Ennis Chamber sent a letter to Clare County Council opposing the plans, which are part of the company's third application since 2011, fearing they would lead to job losses in Ennis.
Mr McDonagh said the company's agreeing to reimburse local residents' application fees was not questionable behaviour.
"I think in this situation that the people who contacted [the company] asked us were we prepared to pay the submission fee and they agreed to do so. We were delighted that we had such support from the locals that they were going to support the application that obviously we were going to help out in any way we could."
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