Councillor Hugh McElvaney: I'm not a gombeen and I quoted £10k to make RTE sting 'sexy'

A councillor at the centre of an RTE Investigations Unit programme claims he knew he was being set up by a journalist, and went along with it for the craic.

Councillor Hugh McElvaney, who resigned from Fine Gael recently, claims he was set up by RTE and his former party.

The programme, due to air tonight, reveals three politicians offered to lobby on behalf of a wind farm in return for money or the promise of a loan or an investment in a private business.

A phone call recorded by RTE between Cllr McElvaney and a woman named Nina Carlson from Iceland, has him asking her "Are you going to pay me by the hour or by the job?"

The woman was in fact an RTE journalist posing as a wind farm investor looking for help in the planning process.

During the call, he asked for £10,000 sterling in return for his assistance.

But Cllr McElvaney, who recently resigned from Fine Gael, says he isn't a "gombeen" and knew all along that Nina was a journalist and that he brought up the figure to make it "sexy".

He claims he was being set up by RTE and his former party.

Cllr McElvaney said: "I knew it was RTE, they've trapped me before, and I knew that there was somebody acting the fool with me.

"So I lured them into their own trap, there's no problem. It puts Mike Murphy and PJ Gallagher into the shade."

But RTE's lead reporter on the programme, Conor Ryan, says they stand over the footage.

Mr Ryan said: "We are quite satisfied that we've given the parties involved an opportunity to reply.

"We are satisfied that what we are broadcasting is in the public interest."

Cllr McElvaney resigned from Fine Gael last month over the North South Interconnector, which would have seen pylons erected in his constituency.

He is insisting the programme is part of a dirty tricks campaign, and has told Shannonside Northern Sound that he is looking forward to the show tonight.

He said: "I have contacted a lot of people over the weekend to tell them to fasten their safety belts and their armchairs tonight.

"I would imagine the pub would be full tonight because of the television programme."

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