A Fine Gael councillor from Mayo has been acquitted of inciting hatred against travelling people. Councillor John Flannery was alleged to have compared travellers to pedigree dogs that spent their time lying in the sun, rather than taking FÁS courses.

John Flannery told today's court hearing that he had been involved in helping travellers for 17 years and that his remark at a Health Board meeting was a "regrettable one-line throw away" that was not intended in any way to be threatening or abusive.

Having heard 21 witnesses including many members of the Health Board, Judge Tom Fitzpatrick said that it was clear that Councillor Flannery's remarks were reported accurately in the local media, but that they had been reported inaccurately in the national media and it was that which had caused the problem.

He accepted that Councillor Flannery's remarks as reported might cause alarm, but he didn't think they were likely to incite hatred and he dismissed the charge. Afterwards, Councillor Flannery said he was "pleased and delighted" with the decision. He said that there was no justification for the charge and he did not think he had to apologise to the travelling community for anything he had said.