Friday, 29 August 2014

New Independent disqualified from Council in UK

Paul Healy 

A Ballinagare-based man who this week announced his intention to contest the local elections in Castlerea/Ballaghaderreen was disqualified as a councillor in Scotland in March, the Roscommon People has learned. Yesterday (Wednesday), when told of 39-year-old Gerry O’Brien’s controversial time with Stirling County Council, the Labour Party quickly ‘dropped’ him – just one hour after confirming that he would represent the party in Castlerea/Ballaghaderreen. Mr. O’Brien has responded by declaring he will now run as an Independent. 

  Gerry O’Brien told the Roscommon People that he is a Meath native who spent many summers holidaying with relations in Co. Roscommon. He is a twice-elected public representative for New Labour in Stirling in Scotland and had served as Deputy Mayor there. 

  Mr. O’Brien and his wife Breda and their four children moved to Co. Roscommon this month. They are living in Ballinagare. Describing himself as a “maverick”, Mr. O’Brien said that he is anxious to continue in politics. “I made history by being the first Irish person elected in Stirling and I am making history by being the first socialist to stand for election to Roscommon County Council.” 

  It has emerged that Mr. O’Brien’s time on Stirling County Council was a controversial period. In March of 2009 it came to an abrupt end when the Standards Commission for Scotland disqualified then Councillor O’Brien “as a councillor for a period of 18 months from being, or from becoming, or from being nominated for election as, or from being elected, a councillor, with effect from 5 March 2009.” 

  The disqualification came about after the Standards Commission determined that, in ten instances, Cllr. O’Brien contravened the councillors’ Code of Conduct. 

  It has emerged that Cllr. O’Brien was the subject of a number of complaints in respect of alleged contraventions of the Councillors’ Code of Conduct. It was claimed that Cllr. O’Brien breached the provisions of the Code which deal with seeking to pressure planning officers to provide a particular recommendation on a planning matter. 

  The Chief Investigating Officer found that over a period of time, a series of emails were issued by Cllr. O’Brien on different subjects to a number of Council employees. The Chief Investigating Officer found that on occasions those emails demonstrated a lack of respect to those employees. 

  He also found that Cllr. O’Brien was “rude, overbearing and intimidating” to a Council employee in his demands for immediate priority to be given to his (Cllr. O’Brien’s) pursuit of civic recognition for a constituent. 

  It was also found that Cllr. O’Brien sent a letter to a newspaper in which he questioned an employee’s professional competence. It was found that he sent emails to planning officers which sought to put pressure on them to achieve particular outcomes in respect of particular planning applications. 

  Describing Cllr. O’Brien as “an experienced councillor” the report stated that he had received training on the Code but had demonstrated a consistent, unacceptable and inappropriate treatment of a number of Council employees and made no serious apology for his conduct. The Hearing Panel recognised that Cllr. O’Brien “might believe that his actions were in the best interests of his constituents.” 

  An unrepentent Mr. O’Brien – quickly dropped by the Labour Party when his controversial recent past was highlighted – says he will now run as an Independent. 

  Asked if he had been forced out of Stirling County Council in recent weeks, Mr. O’Brien agreed that he had been disciplined but said he considered this to be “a badge of honour.” He made no apologies for being “a maverick.” 

  The Independent candidate says he has “walked the walk” in local politics for ten years and has the vision and workrate to make a difference on Roscommon County Council. Accepting that his late entry into the race and the fact that he is largely unknown here will make his task difficult, he says he has already identified a number of issues on which he will campaign. 

  “I would like to see a 24-call centre established by the local authority which would basically involve people dealing with problems and queries from the public. I would call for the establishment of a new planning panel. I believe the Graveyards policy needs to be robustly revised, as does the issue of tourism signage. Ballaghaderreen needs an astro-turf pitch and Castlerea a proper swimming pool, because we must embrace the youth. I would campaign for a University campus in this region and work towards attracting industy here.” 

  “I am on a mission to become a councillor in Roscommon. I would like to be a full-time councillor and I am asking the people of Ballaghaderreen/Castlerea to give me a chance. This is a strongly conservative area but it’s time for a socialist breakthrough.” 

  He went on to hit out at the established parties. “Fianna Fail have ruined the country and the ruination will echo for generations. Fine Gael sat on the fence while it was all happening.”