Councillor John O’Donnell issues fresh statement in light of RTE’s investigation programme

john o'donnell


The statement reads as follows:

I would like to express my serious dissatisfaction with regards yesterday evenings Prime Time Broadcast that included an audio and visual recording taken of me without ray consent at a meeting that was misrepresented to me by the National Broadcaster as a “confidential“ meeting with me as a businessman and public representative.

It is my view that RTE have failed in their statutory obligation to provide a balanced report and instead have provided an edited version to serve their own sensationalist agenda. It is my view that RTE in particular failed to take into account my relevant submissions and my pre-broadcast Press Release of yesterday afternoon with a view to damaging my reputation and creating sensational viewing.

For the sake of clarity, I did offer to assist Vinst Opportunities identify sites which are likely to get planning permission for wind farms in County Donegal. This is a matter of public record and I am very openly pro business, pro renewable energy and pro wind development.

The references in the programme to dealing with the matter on a strictly confidential basis is taken completely out of context. For the sake of clarity, what I represented was that the matter would have to be treated confidentially initially until a position was established to avoid other businessmen seizing the opportunity and other local Councillors hijacking same for their own political benefit.

The reference to a payment was, for the sake of clarity, on the basis that I, as a businessman, might be participating in any project that materialised from work that I would be completing as a businessman, and any payment for such work would be dealt with by a professional team that I would be putting together, and strictly in accordance with the law and the applicable ethical disclosure procedures. Any reference to a payment to a third party was made in that context however I must add was done so without that third party's knowledge, consent or agreement which I accept was incorrect and inappropriate. This position was made clear to RTE and accepted by RTE.

Please note that had a project materialised and had I been personally involved in working on it, or any part of it, I would, of course, have disclosed my interest in accordance with my obligations with regard to my annual declaration of declarable interests pursuant to Section 171 of the Local Government Act, 2001.

l further confirm that l did indicate that l could influence the Countys zoning policy and lobby other County Councillors to be more supportive of wind farm development. However, I believe that is clearly within my mandate as a public representative. For the sake of clarity my estimation of garnering the support of between 25-30 other members was an opinion which may or may not have materialised depending obviously on the particular project. I have made no secret of the fact that I am, as noted above, in favour of renewable energy projects and wind farm development in County Donegal, provided it is completed within the applicable statutory guidelines.

I firmly believe wind farming to be an excellent use of a natural resource in an area that is heavily deprived of any investment and employment opportunities comparatively speaking. In the event that I became a participant in any investment made by Vinst Opportunities, had it not been an RTE fictional creation that would be advancing a renewable energy site, once again I can assure you that my interest therein would have been disclosed.

I refer to my press release of yesterday wherein I noted that since being elected any motion that I have put forward at Local Authority level, or any motion that I supported, has been done only in the public interest without any benefit to me personally or any of my business interests. As noted I have furnished to RTE a full copy of all of the motions brought by me to date which are available for public inspection and will very clearly support my position. For the sake of clarity I have brought NO motions to re-zone lands or supported any motions brought by any other Councillors to re-zone lands.

On the contrary RTE as a National Broadcaster not only misrepresented to me that their reporter wished to meet me for a "confidential” meeting in my capacity, I understood, as a businessman but it has failed in its statutory obligation to provide a full and balanced report. In addition RTE have deliberately refused to furnish me with a full copy of the footage and the audio recording requested by me and as such I have no option but to file a complaint with the Data Protection Commissioner in this regard.

I continue to reserve all my rights in relation to this matter and in particular to seek damages from RTE for flagrantly breaching and continuing to breach my constitutional and EU Law rights to privacy.