News & Media

Local Government Audit Service must investigate extortion payments

10 October 2019

Statement by Sean Sherlock TD
Spokesperson on Justice, Children and Youth Affairs

Commenting on the revelations about payments to deal with intimidation on Dublin City Council building sites, Labour Justice Spokesperson Seán Sherlock said the Local Government Audit Service must investigate if public money was misused, and added that there may have been a criminal breach of the Private Security Services Act 2004, and that rather than DCC hold it's own inquiry this should be a matter for An Garda Síochána.

Deputy Sherlock said:

"I recognise that we have heard only one side of the story in the High Court CAB application and we should not arrive at final conclusions. But the evidence to date makes allegations that potentially have the most serious consequences for Dublin City Council and its management and officials. The allegations must be independently and thoroughly investigated.

"First, the Private Security Services Act 2004 regulates the private security sector, including contractors who provide property protection services or provide advice on protecting property from vandalism, intrusion, trespass or other damage.

"If Mr Derek O’Driscoll and Mr David Reilly did not hold licences from the Private Security Authority to provide their services at the Cherry Orchard site, then it may be that they committed an offence under that Act.

"But if so, then Dublin City Council may also have a case to answer. A person who hires an unlicensed contractor to provide security services may also be guilty of a serious offence, punishable by up to five years’ imprisonment. And anyone who aids, abets, counsels or procures the offence would be equally liable.

"Furthermore, if a court was satisfied that these were extortion demands involving a risk of serious damage to property, then anyone with information which could materially assist in apprehending, prosecuting and convicting the wrongdoer and who failed without reasonable excuse to disclose the information as soon as practicable to the Garda Síochána may also have committed an offence, under section 9 of the Offences Against the State (Amendment) Act 1998, and would be liable to five years’ imprisonment.

"Second, the money handed over by the City Council is of course public money, held in trust for the citizens of Dublin. It cannot be spent for unlawful purposes.

"The Local Government Audit Service must investigate these allegations. And if it finds the need to disallow any expenditure as unlawful and unfounded then, in accordance with the Local Government Acts, the auditors must surcharge the missing money upon any officials who authorised the making of illegal payments. And the Council must then take legal steps to recover the missing money from them.

"Finally, it is not good enough for Dublin City Council to arrange for its own inquiry into these allegations of criminality. The Gardaí must be called in to investigate if serious offences under the Private Security Act were committed. And the Local Government Audit Service must ensure that all legal steps are taken to ensure that, if any money has been misspent, then it is replaced by those responsible. If any council officials mishandled public money then they must be held fully to account – including financially accountable."