Northern Ireland news

Councillor Padraig McShane agrees to give 'recorded conversations' to court in hotel case

Causeway Coast and Glens Borough councillor Padraig McShane claims he recorded conversations with officials connected to a legal challenge over a planned £20m hotel

A councillor who claims he recorded conversations with officials connected to a legal challenge over a planned £20m hotel and leisure complex on the north coast is prepared to disclose the material, the High Court has heard.

Padraig McShane's newly installed lawyers confirmed he is ready to release anything relevant to a case described by the judge as "unprecedented".

Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council has been seeking an order for disclosure of any tapes connected to proceedings.

But barrister David Scoffield QC, who is now representing Mr McShane, confirmed: "I don't understand there to be any difficulty with the recorded material being provided as soon as that is possible."

He told the court that arrangements could be made for the recordings to be transcribed, with the independent councillor helping to identify what is being said on them.

The development came as the council's bid to have Mr McShane compelled to hand over any tapes was put back for a week.

Stressing there will be no further adjournment, Mr Justice McCloskey said: "The case has become extremely stagnant for a variety of reasons which I have described more than once as unprecedented."

Proceedings mounted by TUV leader Jim Allister have been hold since Mr McShane dramatically intervened to claim he had recorded conversations with council officials.

Mr Allister is judicially reviewing the local authority for giving the green light to the luxury accommodation facilities in Portstewart.

The North Antrim MLA, who has a home overlooking the development site, claims the planning decision was unlawful.

Mr McShane was a member of the planning committee who approved the proposed resort at the heart of the North West 200 race route last year.

Plans include a 120-bedroom hotel, spa, holiday cottages, conference facilities and restaurant being built on the Ballyreagh Road.

Mr McShane, who also chairs the council's audit committee, previously the court that he has "hours" of recorded material.

He had been seeking whistleblower status, and has only now secured a solicitor and two barristers to represent him in the case.

Stewart Beattie QC, for the council, said: "The release of the tapes as quickly as possible is critical."

Mr McShane's solicitor, Peter Corrigan of Phoenix Law, said outside the court that his client "wants to ensure that the council is fully accountable to the public for planning decisions.”

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