A FORMER Fianna Fail councillor and mayor yesterday became the first politician in the country to be sentenced in a criminal court under new ethics laws.
Patrick O'Donoghue, a prominent Co Kerry hotelier, was fined €5,000 for trying to influence a planning decision which would have benefited his family-owned property.
The 41-year-old former mayor of Killarney and managing director of the Gleneagle Hotel group pleaded guilty to trying to influence the zoning decision in March 2006.
The offence carries a maximum €12,500 fine and, or, a two-year jail sentence.
Passing sentence at the Circuit Criminal Court in Tralee, Judge Carroll Moran imposed the fine to mark the gravity of the offence.
The conviction also carries a mandatory five-year disqualification from serving on a local authority.
The father of three pleaded guilty to seeking to influence a decision of Killarney Town Council regarding the rezoning of lands in which he had a beneficial interest under the Planning Act 2000.
A motion, passed by a majority of councillors, sought to rezone 20 acres around land and buildings including the Gleneagle and Brehon hotels and the INEC entertainment venue to tourism and associated town centre facilities.
O'Donoghue remained in the council chamber while the issue was being considered, but did not vote on the motion, the court was told.
The property has since been rezoned for tourism purposes in accordance with the planners' original advice.