Councillor claims he faces being bankrupt

A county councillor has told a court he is facing bankruptcy as a result of failed business dealings.

He said he doesn’t have any money to pay compensation to a woman he drove over 16 years ago.

John O’Donnell featured in the recent RTÉ Investigates programme allegedly asking for payment for assistance with a windfarm application — a claim he denies.

Mr O’Donnell’s finances were laid bare in a remarkable hearing at Letterkenny District Civil Court yesterday at which he admitted having millions of euro in debts.

Petra Kucklick, a German native from Mill Cottage, Rooskey, Creeslough, is suing Mr O’Donnell for an outstanding €33,000 debt from a personal injury claim.

The court heard that he had paid €7,600 in 2009 but then stopped making any payments despite a court order.

Ms Kucklick’s barrister, Laura O’Reilly, representing the Legal Aid Board, said she had been awarded personal injury compensation in 2008 and that Mr O’Donnell had failed to pay any of the award.

The 2008 judgment related to an incident in 2000 in which Mr O’Donnell had driven over her foot at a building site in the county.

The court heard that Mr O’Donnell had still not handed over details of his bank accounts in this state and in Northern Ireland to Ms Kucklick.

In his evidence, Mr O’Donnell said:

  • He did not have any salary from his wool-exporting business, other than the use of a company BMW X5;
  • He owed a personal guarantee of €1m to ACC Bank and €1m to AIB;
  • A plot of land at Horn Head, Dunfanaghy, had been repossessed;
  • A property investment with his brother in Kilmacrennan had been repossessed;
  • He had sued Etic Solutions — run by French businessman François de Dietrich — for €53,000 but only got a fraction back, which was not enough to cover his legal costs;
  • He had taken two flights to Alicante in 2014 but only because his then partner had a property there;
  • He did not own a luxury camper van called Betsy in which he travelled the entire Wild Atlantic Way last year. He said it was a £480-per-week rental.

Donations made to Termon Ladies gaelic team, Milford GAA club, and Kilmacrennan Celtic had come from either a council fund or limited companies and not him personally;

  • A 2011 trip to China had been paid for by the wool company;
  • He did not own a lorry used in a St Patrick’s Day parade — the lorry had been hired;
  • He did not currently own a car but had been given a Volvo V40 free, courtesy of Letterkenny-based McGinley Motors. “He gave it to me as a goodwill gesture until I can buy one,” Mr O’Donnell told the court;
  • Bank statements from 2014 showed he had Sky and Netflix subscriptions, and a rental income from properties amounting to €2,000 per month;
  • He did not own the Millbridge Inn and did not hold the liquor license for it. He had been managing it, free of charge or salary, for family friends;
  • He is surviving on a €16,000-a-year county council salary plus expenses;
  • He did spend almost €5,000 of his own money running in the council elections at a time when he had stopped paying Ms Kucklick.

Ms O’Reilly told Mr O’Donnell that he had paid “scant” regard to the court orders against him in this case.

“I genuinely didn’t have the money to pay anything,” said Mr O’Donnell.

Judge Paul Kelly described the Millbridge Inn situation as “shadowy to say the least”.

He said Mr O’Donnell had provided only a sketchy outline of all his business dealings and earnings.

Judge Kelly adjourned the case until March 2 when Mr O’Donnell must provide a proper up-to-date statement of means and all bank records north and south of the border.


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