Councillor John O'Donnell tells court he is seeking bankruptcy

Wednesday 02 March 2016 23.17
John O'Donnell featured on an RTÉ Investigates programme
John O'Donnell featured on an RTÉ Investigates programme

A councillor who featured in an RTÉ Investigates programme on Standards in Public Office has told Letterkenny District Court he is filing for bankruptcy.

Councillor John O'Donnell made the revelation during a court appearance in relation to a civil matter involving a woman whose foot he had driven over on a building site several years ago.

Mr O'Donnell had failed to pay all compensation due to Petra Kucklick of Mill Cottage, Rooskey, Creeslough, Co Donegal.

She re-entered the case and applied to have Mr O'Donnell committed to prison for failing to continue to pay €200 a week to her as directed by the court.

In a previous sitting, Judge Paul Kelly directed that Mr O'Donnell submit details of all his finances but in court today barrister for Ms Kucklick said that some documents had not been filed including statements from an Ulster Bank account.

Mr O'Donnell had told the court previously that his only income was his Donegal County Council salary of €16,000.

In court today Judge Kelly said that the bank statements submitted showed that he was receiving €536 a week from Donegal County Council.

The judge said that it appears from the details that Mr O'Donnell has access to quite a reasonable amount of cash and his statements were characterised by frequent round-sum withdrawals of cash.

This he said was not consistent with the picture he has painted to court.

The court heard that in one ten-day period Mr O'Donnell withdrew a total of €1,020 in cash, which he said was to pay bills.

Reference was made to a bill of €350 in a Dublin restaurant, Peploes, and another bill at Café en Seine, also in Dublin.

Mr O'Donnell said that the €350 bill had been shared with a group of friends who gave him cash and he used his visa debit card to pay.

A payment of €960 was made in December 2015 to a men’s clothes shop which Mr O'Donnell explained was a "man's thing" of just doing one shop a year.

However, Laura O'Reilly, barrister for Ms Kucklick, pointed out that there were also three other payments to clothing stores River Island and one to Hollister.

She said these were not the actions of a  man about to apply for bankruptcy.

Ms O'Reilly also referred to pictures of Mr O'Donnell on his Facebook account with various cars including a BMW 3 Series M5 and a Porsche which she said he was bragging were his.

Mr O'Donnell denied he owned any of those cars. He said he is currently driving a Volvo, which is on loan from a garage.

Ms O'Reilly also said that no verification had been received of Mr O'Donnell's debt including the €2m he says he owes to ACC bank.

Mr O'Donnell said he had millions of euro in liabilities.

He said the personal insolvency practitioner had had negotiations with Ms Kucklick but she was not willing to be part of the process and he now had no choice but to apply for bankruptcy, which would probably happen next Monday.

He said he had paid Ms Kucklick €200 a week for as long as he could afford to.

Judge Kelly said that he is not sure Mr O'Donnell can pay €200 a week now.

There may well have been times when he was flush with cash and could afford to pay but chose not to, the judge said, but he could not punish him retrospectively.

He varied the compensation order to €100 a week and said that if Mr O'Donnell did not comply with that then he would take a different view of matters.