EMBATTLED Metropolitian Mayor of Limerick, Cllr Jerry O’Dea has been called upon to fully clarify his involvement in a road traffic accident last December that is now at the centre of an internal Garda investigation.
Party leader Michéal Martin has added to the mounting pressure by calling on the Fianna Fáil councillor to make a further statement over his involvement in the car crash during his first year as a public representative.
Mr Martin, it is understood, instructed a party official to contact Mayor O’Dea to tell him he must make a further, more comprehensive statement on the matter. The Fianna Fáil leader is understood to have described the incident as “very serious”.
Meantime a former mayor of the city has also called on Mayor O’Dea to clear up the controversy.
Speaking at the reopening of the former St Enda’s community college as the new base for the Limerick and Clare Education and Training Board, Cllr Joe Leddin (Lab) said that he was “very surprised” to read that the Cllr O’Dea was at the centre of an internal garda investigation.
Education Minister Jan O’Sullivan said that while she was unaware of the exact circumstances, she believed public representatives had a particular duty to co cooperate with inquiries and expected the Mayor to co-operate fully with any investigation.
Last weekend, it was reported that Garda Headquarters ordered an internal disciplinary inquiry in Limerick after a car-crash in Limerick last December.
According to reports, a BMW car overturned on the outskirts of the city on December 11, 2014, and the driver required the assistance of the Ambulance Service and firefighters from Limerick Fire and Rescue Service to be cut free from the vehicle.
Gardaí were also in attendance and it is understood that following medical examination at the University Hospital Limerick, blood samples were taken and some days later a section 17 certificate pursuant to the Road Traffic Act 2010 issued from the Medical Bureau of Road Safety to the driver and Gardaí showing that the concentration of alcohol in the blood exceeded the legal limits and it remains unclear as to why no prosecution was ever advanced.
Under the provisions of road traffic legislation, there is a six month statute of limitations on prosecutions following the date of any alleged incident that could be subject to criminal proceedings.
The internal Garda investigation is to determine why the court summons was never raised and thus advancing the prosecution.
Cllr Leddin said; “The first I heard of it was when I picked up a copy of the Sunday Times and I was actually quite surprised to see the headline on the front regarding the mayor of Limerick and I suppose that’s the confusion because we have two mayors – notwithstanding the fact that it’s the metropolitan mayor. I think as my colleague the Minister for Education and Skills said there is an internal investigation on as we speak and I would like to see the outcome of that before we comment on that any further.
As a former mayor of Limerick, Cllr Leddin said that “the person that has the office of the Mayor has a huge responsibility – it’s a focal point for the city of Limerick and there’s a huge responsibility for those, like myself, who have had the honour of being Mayor of Limerick.
When asked if the Fianna Fail councillor should clarify the issue further, Cllr Leddin said that the metropolitan Mayor should do so immediately.
“Speaking personally as a former mayor, it is that your first and foremost priority is to represent the people of Limerick.
“There is a huge historic value attached to the office of mayor and I think people in the position of being mayor need to be cognisant of that and do what’s right for the office of the mayor.
Mayor O’Dea has not responded to any media enquiries sent by this newspaper, but released a brief statement on Sunday evening in which he confirmed he had been involved in a car accident last year but insisted “the matter is closed”.
Mayor O’Dea hasn’t however explained the exact nature of the crash and why the Gardaí were involved.
“In December 2014 I was involved in a single vehicle road traffic accident. I was the sole occupant of the car. Following the accident, I cooperated fully with an Garda Siochana and subsequently made no further contact with an Garda Siochana about the issue. In early May 2015 I was informed there would be no action against me and I consider the matter closed.”
A statement from Fianna Fáil headquarters said it was “an operational issue for An Garda Síochána, which has launched an investigation into the matter. All individuals concerned should fully co-operate with the inquiry.”
On Sunday night, the six members of the Fianna Fail grouping on the metropolitan district met to discuss the reports over the weekend, and ahead of the meeting, the group said that they “will be dealing with this as swiftly and as transparently as possible and in a manner that is as fair as possible to all concerned, while we are still establishing the facts.”
A Fianna Fail group meeting of the 13 representatives sitting on the Limerick city and county council was taking place this Wednesday night as this newspaper went to press.
It’s also understood that Fine Gael, who have a voting pact with Fianna Fáil on the 40 seat council, have sent questions arising out of the controversy to the leader of the FF group.
Fine Gael council leader Cllr John Sheahan said further clarity is required.
“We have contacted the leader of the Fianna Fáil group Cllr Michael Collins and asked him to clarify their position and I understand they are having a meeting and we are waiting the outcome,” said Cllr Sheahan.
“The ball is in their court,” he added.
Sinn Fein Councillor Maurice Quinlivan has also urged Cllr O’Dea to make a full and frank statement to clarify the issue.
“There’s a lot of concern on the streets of Limerick and there are a lot of people talking about it. I believe it is damaging the office of mayor and what we need is the full facts to come out,” Cllr Quinlivan said.
“I think there has been an amazing lack of response from Fianna Fáil who are normally quick to comment on other issues and who don’t seem to be contactable on this issue. I think by failing to clarify the situation, Mayor O’Dea has put himself in a situation where he should really reflect on his position.”
Cllr Quinlivan said that a full council meeting should be immediately convened to discuss the matter.