Sunday 17 November 2019

Council chief warns members not to discuss gang site racket

Owen Keegan told of his ‘grave reservations’ in the memo
Owen Keegan told of his ‘grave reservations’ in the memo

Dublin City Council chief executive Owen Keegan has urged councillors not to hold a special meeting to discuss the issue of gangsters being paid to provide security at council sites in Cherry Orchard.

Since 2016 the council has been aware that a notorious gang - led by Derek 'Dee Dee' O'Driscoll (46) - which was involved in the infamous 'Ballymount Bloodbath', was hired as security at one site.

In September that year the council told the Herald that it had launched an investigation into the matter, while a source said it was also brought to the attention of Mr Keegan.

However, since the matter was raised last week in court by the Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB), the council has refused to comment on the outcome of that three-year-old inquiry.

The Herald last night asked the council what action was taken by Mr Keegan in 2016 after learning about the matter.

However, the request went unanswered.

Yesterday, Mr Keegan wrote to members of the council about a planned meeting to discuss the scandal.

"I understand that there has been a request to the Lord Mayor to convene a special council meeting to discuss these matters," he said in a memo on council-headed paper.

"I have advised the Lord Mayor that I have grave reservations concerning this course of action, while the matter is under investigation by the city council and by external agencies."

Privilege

Mr Keegan said councillors do not have the benefit of legal privilege in the chamber.

"There is a danger of making defamatory comments about identifiable individuals," he wrote.

"There is also a danger of reaching wrongful conclusions and/or prejudicing ongoing investigations.

"It is my view that now is not the appropriate time to have a special council meeting and I would request those members seeking such a meeting to reconsider their position."

Mr Keegan said there was a "legitimate demand" to find out what exactly happened and what role council officials may have played.

"Unfortunately, I will not be in a position to provide any report to the council until the internal review has been completed," he added.

"Even then, I may be constrained by legal considerations and external requirements from reporting on the matter."

Counsel for the CAB told the High Court that sums of €1,500 and €1,200-a-week were being paid by building companies to O'Driscoll and his associate David Reilly to maintain the safety of workers and equipment at sites, and that this money had been paid through extortion.

The CAB was successful in getting bank accounts containing more than €250,000 controlled by O'Driscoll and Reilly frozen.

O'Driscoll, of Croftwood Park, Ballyfermot, and Reilly (36), of Croftwood Grove, Ballyfermot, had denied the money was raised by criminal means but was paid to them for providing the services of a fencing company to three sites being developed for housing in the Ballyfermot and Cherry Orchard areas.

Dublin City Council responded by announcing the launch of an investigation, though it has come under pressure to clarify the one from 2016.

The council has insisted that it did not pay any money to the criminals following revelations of a protection racket at the council housing site.

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