In the local elections last year in Sligo the biggest vote for a single candidate in any one box was that for Michael Clarke in the McGee Memorial Hall booth, in Dromore.
It was a repeat performance. Clarke, standing as an Independent, easily topped the poll in the 2009 local elections, comfortably ahead of his fellow Sligo councillor Joe Queenan, who had a starring role in this week’s RTÉ investigation into standards in public office.
Clarke, a publican and auctioneer, is obviously something of a local hero. He is also a convicted fraudster. In 2002 he was sent to jail for two years for his part in a conspiracy to defraud the State of more than €100,000. A corrupt Department of Agriculture official was making out cheques to nonexistent farmers under a dairy-hygiene scheme. Clarke was collecting and cashing them. The scam was quite complex, with money orders being sent to fictitious payees at a number of guest houses in Co Sligo.
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