Fianna Fáil councillor and former Junior Minister Lorcan Allen yesterday said the letters were “distributed during the pressurised atmosphere of an intensive election campaign.”
He said: “I confirm that the signature of Mr Bertie Ahern TD was used without his consent or prior knowledge and that neither his staff, nor the staff of Fianna Fáil headquarters knew anything of this at any time.”
He accepted full responsibility for the 2,500 letters sent to the electorate in the Gorey area in Co Wexford just days before the county council election. The letters endorsed him as “experienced, patriotic and honest”.
Cllr Allen admitted the use of free-post Oireachtas envelopes to distribute the letter was wrong and confirmed arrangements are now being made to reimburse the costs involved.
“I further confirm that I am co-operating fully with the Fianna Fáil internal investigations into the matter. I hereby apologise unreservedly to Uachtarán Fhianna Fáil, Bertie Ahern, TD, the members and supporters of Fianna Fáil and to my running mate, Pat Rath, and to the electorate of Gorey District,” his statement continues.
Fianna Fáil said the misuse of the Taoiseach’s signature is totally unacceptable and that the misuse of state resources in the form of the use of pre-paid Oireachtas envelopes was wrong.
But no additional sanctions are to be taken against the councillor. A spokesperson for the party said the investigation into the matter was “ongoing” and the matter of who supplied Cllr Allen with the envelopes still has to be resolved. But the issue of his future is one for the party locally, the spokesperson said.
“We acknowledge and accept Cllr Allen’s fulsome apology in respect of these matters and his firm undertaking that there will be no repeat of such activity.”
Pat Rath, Mr Allen’s running mate who lost out by less than 400 votes, was furious. He said Fianna Fáil had been presented the ideal opportunity to make an ethical stand on the matter.
“This stance is absolutely incredible. We had an opportunity to say to our young, educated electorate that we in Fianna Fáil stand for honesty and integrity and have banished the ghosts of the past.
“This is a much bigger issue than me losing out on a seat. It is a national issue, one of ethics. We had an opportunity here to show once and for all that we are a nation of the 21st century and that Fianna Fáil is an upright party. We have failed.”
Independent councillor Padge Reck said he attempted last Friday to have the matter raised at the AGM of the county council. “I had standing orders thrown at me when I tried to raise this issue.
“Meanwhile, none of the so-called soldiers of liberalism in Fine Gael or Labour stood up and backed me. Instead they helped vote him onto six fairly lucrative positions in the county council which will earn him a fine salary.”