LISTEN: Councillor accuses RTE of "dirty tricks" after being recorded asking for £10,000 'sweetener'

The recording is part of tonight's RTE Investigates programme

LISTEN: Councillor accuses RTE of "dirty tricks" after being recorded asking for £10,000 'sweetener'

(RTE Investigates)

A Monaghan Councillor recorded asking an undercover reporter for a £10,000 "sweetener" claims that he was fully aware of the set-up, but played along anyway.

The recording was released ahead of tonight's episode of RTE Investigates, which examines the undeclared business interests of Irish politicians.

Journalist trawled through records of every Irish politicians - of which there are over 1,000 - noting the discrepancies between interests which had been declared to the Oireachteas and those which appeared on other public records.

Focusing their investigation on a handful of politicans, undercover RTE reporters then posed as a foreign wind farm investment company looking to invest in Ireland. 'Nina' of the fictitious Vinst Opportunities contacted a number of councillors to seek support for planning permission, which would be the main obstacle to securing a site for wind turbines in the country.

Three politicians offered to lobby on behalf of the company in exchange for money, the promise of a loan, or investment in a private business.

In an audio recording, Cllr Hugh McElvaney of Monaghan County Council is heard clearly asking for a £10,000 "sweetener" to aid the planning application.

Pat Kenny spoke to RTE journalist Conor Ryan, who led the investigation, and Cllr McElvaney. You can listen to the full interview below:

Ryan explained how journalists examined every Irish politican, and matched their declared interests with documents obtained from public bodies.

From there, the investigation was narrowed down to a number of councillors, who were targeted by the fake wind farm company.

Some, according to Ryan, immediately rebuffed journalists, saying that informal contact in relation to planning permission would be inappropriate or illegal. Others, however, proved more pliable.

Audio was then played from a five minute phone call between 'Nina' and Councillor McElvaney in which he asks "I have a question for you: what's in it for me?" and "are you going to pay me by the hour or the job?"

Cllr McElvaney appears eager at the prospect of 'Nina' coming to Ireland to meet, but urges her to "put sterling on the table," saying "£10,000 would be a start - a nice little figure."

The councillor joined the show to refute RTE's claims, and said that he had been aware at the time that the communications were a set-up.

When told he had been "banged to rights" by Kenny, he said he had in fact caught RTE and "their dirty tricks."

"I knew well there was someone acting the fool with me," argued the politician, who said he played on nonetheless.

"It's the greatest piss-pull that was ever pulled in this country," he said, comparing himself to TV comedian PJ Gallagher, whose Naked Camera show pulled practical jokes on unsuspecting members of the public.

Ryan said that Cllr McElvaney never articulated this to RTE, and that the public can come to their own conclusion after watching the footage this evening.

Rebutting McElvaney's claims that the RTE recordings were illegal and that the broadcaster did not give him enough time to respond to their investigation, he said:

"We've not done this lightly. We've considered all the legal and public interest issues and we're quite satisfied we've given all parties an opportunity to reply."

Cllr McElvaney said he had been treated like a "gombeen man," and that his character and career were at risk of being destroyed.

A former Fine Gael member first elected to Monaghan County Council in 1974, he quit the party last month over what he felt was backtracking on the issue of pylons.

"Damned if I am going to continue and be a hypocrite," he said to theJournal at the time.

Watch the clip from tonight's RTE Investigates here: