A FIANNA Fáil councillor who was last month returned for trial on summonses under the ethics in public office legislation was last night unanimously elected mayor of his home town.
Top hotelier and Tourism Ireland director Patrick O’Donoghue, 41, became mayor of Killarney with the support of all parties and independents.
In May, he appeared at Killarney Court on two summonses arising out of a zoning controversy relating to the Gleneagle Hotel property, Killarney, which is owned by the O’Donoghue family, and returned for trial at the Circuit Criminal Court, in Tralee.
In his incoming address as mayor, he made no mention of the legal proceedings and told reporters afterwards he did not think it was appropriate to do so, adding: “It had no bearing on my decision (to go forward for mayor).” Mr O’Donoghue was proposed for the mayorship by Fianna Fáil colleague Brian O’Leary and seconded by another FF councillor, Tom Doherty.
Mr O’Leary said the O’Donoghue family had been involved in tourism for many decades and Patrick O’Donoghue had brought a certain business acumen to the council since becoming a member seven years ago.
“He will be a fine mayor and a fine representative of Killarney,” said Mr O’Leary, who was elected deputy mayor.
Mr O’Donoghue said it was a privilege to become mayor, as someone born and bred in Killarney.
He listed winning the Tidy Towns competition, tourism and promotion of industry among his priorities and said Killarney was well-positioned to face challenging times ahead.
Mr O’Donoghue, managing director of the Gleneagle Hotel, was initially investigated by the Standards in Public Office Commission, which found he had breached ethics legislation arising from a proposal to rezone property in which he had an interest.
The commission referred the matter to the DPP, on whose instructions the summonses were issued.
One summons alleges that, between January 1, 2006 and March 3, 2006, he influenced, or tried to influence, a decision of Killarney Town Council to rezone the Gleneagle property. He is also summonsed for not leaving the council meeting when the rezoning motion was being discussed.
The motion to zone the property as “town centre” was passed by a majority of councillors, despite opposition from officials and planners who said the Gleneagle lands were on the urban/rural divide and a considerable distance from the centre of Killarney.
The then town manager, Tom Curran, refused to allow the rezoning to proceed at a subsequent meeting.
Mr O’Donoghue has maintained he acted openly and in good faith at all times and has rejected the findings of the investigation.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved