THE METROPOLITAN mayor of Limerick Cllr Jerry O’Dea has refused to answer questions at a council meeting this Monday regarding his involvement in an alleged road accident last December.
Mayor O’Dea, who chaired the metropolitan meeting for the first time since allegations about him were published in a number of national newspapers, would not respond to queries by councillor Cian Prendiville at the end of the meeting.
The mayor and a number of Fianna Fail colleagues in the council, including James Collins, also made an abrupt escape from the council chambers at Merchants Quay, refusing to answer questions from the assembled media.
Councillor Prendiville said he was giving the mayor an opportunity to refute allegations that he was under the influence of alcohol at the time of the crash, from which no prosecution arose.
The matter is now the subject of an internal investigation by An Garda Siochana.
“Mayor, I’d like to invite you to make a statement now to refute the allegations in the media that you were over the blood alcohol limit at the time of your car crash on December 11 2014,” he began, “and to state that the reason you faced no conviction was that you were not drink driving and did nothing wrong.
“This issue has caused a lot of speculation and concern, and hangs over you and the council, and could be cleared up here and now by you making such a statement.”
However, the Anti-Austerity Alliance councillor was shot down in his line of questioning by a number of other councillors, including Frankie Daly, who said Cllr Prendiville was not an expert on legal matters and described him as a “protestor and philosopher”.
Independent councillor John Gilligan also spoke out, saying: “Who are we to be judge and jury?”
Fianna Fail councillor Joe Crowley was the only member of the party to speak to the media after the meeting, and said it was now a matter for the national party and the gardai. Councillor Crowley said he does not believe that the mayor had any further questions to answer.
“As a group we met and decided the best thing to do was get advice, and the advice was to refer any queries to Fianna Fail headquarters, because we wouldn’t be qualified number one, and a garda investigation is taking place,” he said.
“As far as we were concerned, the first we heard of it was when allegations were in the paper, that there was any accident at. We haven’t seen any evidence of anything. It’s up to the gardai to do an investigation. If they come out with something, let that be it then.”
He said “there was no dissent whatsoever” within Fianna Fail locally on the matter.
“As far as we’re concerned we don’t have an issue with the Mayor. We’re not qualified to talk about this when it comes to legalities,” Cllr Crowley told the Limerick Leader.
Earlier this month, the mayor insisted he “made no effort to influence the gardai”, after admitting his involvement in a road traffic accident.
He 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.
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.