Evidence in the trial of a former Fine Gael politician accused of accepting corrupt payments had told a rather sordid tale of “jealousy, anger, and rage,” the ex-councillor’s lawyer said yesterday.
Fred Forsey Jr, aged 43, of Coolagh Rd, Dungarvan, Co Waterford, denies six charges relating to the alleged receipt of corrupt payments totalling €80,000 in 2006. He is alleged to have received the money from a developer as a reward or inducement for supporting the rezoning of a piece of land outside Dungarvan from agricultural to industrial and residential use.
Closing arguments were heard yesterday at Waterford Circuit Court by the jury, which is expected to retire today to consider a verdict after Judge Gerard Griffin completes his charge.
In his closing argument, John Phelan SC, for Mr Forsey, said to the jury: “You have heard a rather sordid, rather unfortunate story of jealousy, anger and rage,” adding that there are “two sides to every story”.
Mr Forsey had not been charged with the break-up of his marriage to Jenny Forsey or with taking a new partner. “That is a social and, generally, private matter,” he said. “The comings and goings of citizens in their private lives is a matter for themselves.”
Mr Forsey went through “tough financial times”, he said, and there was an element of “keeping up with the Joneses and keeping up appearances” about his life as a town councillor.
Things were not going well at home and he started “going behind Mrs Forsey’s back” and had a new girlfriend, said Mr Phelan.
In the meantime, he realised the financial predicament he was in, and “screwed up his courage and went to [the developer] whom he had met before”.
He went “cap in hand” and looked for a loan which he received, said Mr Phelan. “The money was forthcoming.”
Mrs Forsey “never made a move” to the gardaí until after the marriage broke up and when her husband didn’t replay €10,000 which she loaned him for his business, said Mr Phelan.
“I suggest she did it to get back at him.”
It was “an accepted fact” Mr Forsey was, at the time, a Dungarvan town councillor who “has no sway, good, bad or indifferent” with Waterford County Council who would be deciding on the zoning of the piece of land involved in the trial.
“What was the point of giving a political lame duck, from the zoning point of view, €80,000 to perform duties that Mr Forsey would probably have done for nothing anyway?”
He said it was “not a sin” to lobby in favour of a project and one thing all politicians shared was a desire to improve the lot of their area and the local people.
Denis Vaughan-Buckley SC, prosecuting, said a “very significant” piece of evidence related to a “purported loan agreement” signed by Mr Forsey and the developer and dated Aug 20, 2006.
The first payment, of €60,000, was made into Mr Forsey’s bank account on Aug 25. “That document was not created until Jan 9 of 2007,” said Mr Vaughan-Buckley.
“At that stage, the wife, Mrs Forsey, had threatened Mr Forsey that she was going to the guards and she did subsequently go to the guards in April of 2007.”
Mr Vaughan-Buckley said the evidence was “overwhelming” against Mr Forsey, who played “a key role” in lobbying in favour of the rezoning of the piece of land in 2006.
He met the developer and an associate “a few times”; went on local radio and appeared in local newspapers; raised the issue with people around the town; met John Deasy TD looking for support for the project; spoke to the county manager and the planning director of services; proposed the extension of the Dungarvan town boundary at a meeting of the council; and met with other councillors.
Mr Forsey also inspected the planning file relating to the development project on the day after it was turned down by the council, the prosecution also noted.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved