Independent Galway councillor Michael Fahy has been told to 'act with dignity and resign his seat' after being found guilty of fraud.

Judge Michael White made the comments after sentencing Cllr Fahy to one year for obtaining €7,000 by false pretences from Galway County Council in 2002.

He was acquitted on four other charges of fraud and false accounting

However, after the judge suspended the last four months of the sentence and took into account the seven months already served, Mr Fahy was told he was free to go. He was fined €30,000.

Judge White said fraud by a public representative attacks the very essence of democracy and erodes public trust in our elected representatives.

The Judge said he he had taken mitigating circumstances into account including the fact that Cllr Fahy was of previous good character and re-paid the money he owed to Galway County Council.

He also noted that Mr Fahy was the sole carer of his 98-year-old mother.

Outside the Courthouse Councillor Fahy told waiting media that he would be appealing the decision to the Court of Criminal Appeal.

It took the jury at Galway Circuit Criminal Court just over six hours to return a guilty verdict on one charge and not guilty on four other charges.

Fencing on private land

The councillor had denied charges of misappropriating funds in relation to the erection of fencing on his private lands in Ardrahan during a road-widening scheme approved by Galway County Council.

Councillor Fahy had already served seven months of a one-year prison sentence on similar charges last year and was fined €75,000.

However, he was given early release after the Court of Criminal Appeal ordered a retrial following the introduction of inadmissible evidence.

During the trial, counsel for the State Conor Fahy said the work carried out on Cllr Fahy's farm was solely for his benefit and he described the obtaining of council funds by false pretences as 'dishonesty on a grand scale and an abuse of power'.

Tom Kavanagh said in evidence that he was not aware of any agreement between a local engineer and Cllr Fahy to take the stone from Mr Fahy's old cottage in lieu of council work on his land.

Former county manager Donal O'Donoghue told the court that in 2004 he ordered Cllr Fahy to repay the council €7,000 and to donate €3,000 to charity after becoming aware of irregularities in invoices submitted by Cllr Fahy.

Two months later, following a Freedom of Information request from Irish Independent journalist Brian McDonald, a decision was taken by the council to refer the matter to the gardaí, which lead to a criminal investigation.