METROPOLITAN mayor Jerry O’Dea has insisted he “made no effort to influence the gardai” as controversy over his involvement in a road accident continues.
In a statement released to the Leader, the Fianna Fail councillor said he “very much regrets the incident” and “apologises for any controversy caused” after an investigation was launched into why local officers failed to follow up on the accident.
A report in The Sunday Times alleged Mayor O’Dea contacted gardai in advance of his election as metropolitan mayor seeking clarification on whether he was likely to be charged with a criminal offence.
In a short statement released after the claim was made, Cllr O’Dea said he considered the matter closed.
But following widespread calls on the mayor to make a fuller statement – including most notably from Fianna Fail leader Micheál Martin – he made further comments this Wednesday. Referring to the incident in December 2014, the City East councillor said he swerved to avoid another car.
His vehicle, he said, overturned, and the gardai and fire service attended the scene.
“No-one was injured in this accident apart from myself,” he added. “I want to reiterate and emphasise I co-operated fully with the gardai at all times and I made no effort to influence the gardai whatsoever.”
The mayor did confirm that he made an approach to the gardai “about the status of the accident” before he was elected mayor of Limerick’s metropolitan district.
“I understood that there would be no proceedings in relation to this matter,” he added.
He said the internal investigation ordered should be allowed to be completed.
“I very much regret the incident and unreservedly apologise for any controversy caused,” Cllr O’Dea concluded.
It remains to be seen whether the comments satisfy those who have called for clarity, including the local leader of Fine Gael councillor John Sheahan, Sinn Fein’s Maurice Quinlivan, and Cian Prendiville of the Anti-Austerity Alliance (AAA).
Cllr Quinlivan says there is “huge disquiet” on the streets of Limerick, and “the office of mayor has definitely been damaged by this.”
Cllr O’Dea may still face a motion of no confidence from the opposition parties, with Cllr Prendiville indicating he will seek the support of other members to call a special meeting to discuss Cllr O’Dea’s future.
To do this, he needs six other councillors to support him, and the meeting must take place within 21 days.
Fianna Fail is maintaining that as Cllr O’Dea has not done anything illegal, it will continue to support him.
It is understood only two Fianna Fail metropolitan district members have sought his resignation, and there is otherwise broad support.
One party councillor – who did not wish to be named - said this Wednesday that the allegations against Cllr O’Dea “seem to be politically motivated”.
“It is widely accepted Jerry is doing a good job as mayor, and someone wants to take him out,” the councillor said.
The Leader was also led to understand there are just a handful of Fine Gael representatives orchestrating a campaign to have the mayor removed.
But a Fine Gael source disputed this, saying: “We held a group meeting yesterday, and the impression I got it was more than one or two.”
Many councillors have declined to publicly comment on the situation.
However, Mayor of Limerick City and County Liam Galvin said: “In my opinion, Jerry O’Dea is innocent until proven guilty, and that remains my stance”.
Independent councillor John Gilligan added: “He has not been convicted of anything as far as I am aware. I have never set myself up as judge and jury on a personal basis.”