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27 Jan 2022

Council cathaoirleach says he will examine allegations of bullying 

Cllr Frank McBrearty ‘completely refutes’ allegations of bullying

'This is not a position I want to be in' - new cathaoirleach

Cllr Jack Murray says a letter from Cllr Martin Harley about ‘bullying and abuse and abusive language’ is ‘a very serious allegation’

The cathaoirleach of Donegal County Council has said he will examine whether allegations of bullying by a councillor against Cllr Frank McBrearty will be sent to the Standards in Public Office Commission.

Cllr Jack Murray confirmed he received a letter at the weekend from Fine Gael councillor Martin Harley making allegations against the Independent councillor. 

He said the letter contained “a very serious allegation and is a serious matter which needs to be addressed”. 

The Sinn Féin councillor said he will be  “exploring all avenues open to me”. The letter, which was also sent to council chief executive John McLaughlin, alleges ongoing bullying by Cllr McBrearty of councillors and council staff during council meetings.

Speaking on Monday Cllr Murray said no complaint has been made by the council to the Standards in Public Office (Sipo) Commission. He said a decision to send any complaint to Sipo is the responsibility of the cathaoirleach and the chief executive.

Cllr McBrearty raised the issue of the letter at Monday’s virtual meeting of Donegal County Council following a report in the Sunday Independent.

READ MORE: Donegal councillor vows to defend his good name

He called for a full apology from Cllr Harley alleging he has made insulting comments about him and members of his family.

Asking Cllr Murray to confirm what complaints had been made to Sipo, Cllr McBrearty said he had a right to defend himself against “false allegations”.  

“Donegal County Council is fully responsible for allowing this to happen to me and my family. I have a right to my good name as a public representative,” he said. He said he could not have bullied Cllr Harley during council meetings over the last two and half years as he “has not spoken to him”.

In his letter, Cllr Harley said he can no longer put up with “bullying and abuse and abusive language”.

“There needs to be something done regarding this because this is bullying in the workplace, which is not accepted in any workplace on this island,” he said.

Speaking after the meeting, Cllr Harley denied ever making insulting comments about Cllr McBrearty or his family.

He confirmed the letter he sent raises concerns about behaviour by Cllr McBrearty over a period of time which amounts to workplace bullying. Cllr Harley said he left the meeting for a period due to a verbal attack by Cllr McBrearty on a senior member of council staff.

“I was elected to this council to help the people, not to be abused by another councillor,” he said.

Cllr McBrearty said after the meeting he “completely refutes” allegations of bullying. He said Cllr Harley has “damaged my good name and reputation as an honest law-abiding citizen and law-abiding member of local government. And the reason they are doing it is because I am exposing systemic corruption in political life in Donegal and in local government in Donegal.”

On Sunday Cllr McBrearty apologised “unreservedly” to mica campaigner Michael Doherty for sending him a WhatsApp message containing “vulgar and inappropriate” language.

The letter from Cllr Harley follows a series of clashes at council meetings in recent months usually during discussions of the mica crisis.

Cllr Murray told Cllr McBrearty to leave a meeting in October over “disruptive behaviour”. Cllr McBrearty has said he is challenging his removal legally.

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