Councillor is sacked over rape remarks

A COUNCILLOR at the centre of a storm over his comments about a nine-year-old alleged rape victim has been sacked from several political posts and suspended by the Labour Party.

Glasgow City councillor William O’Rourke is reported to have asked if the child “wanted it to happen” during a disciplinary panel into the dismissal of a care worker accused of her rape.

Mr O’Rourke, 72, had been chair- ing a recent personnel appeals committee when he made the comments that have led to a police complaint to the Standards Commission.

Following the revelation about the comments made during January’s meeting, council leader Gordon Matheson sacked Mr O’Rourke from his position on Strathclyde Police Authority and several other posts that earn the Greater Pollok councillor around £20,000 on top of his allowance of around £17,000.

Both the Liberal Democrat and SNP groups had written to Mr Matheson ahead of the announcement, calling for Mr O’Rourke to go. Both parties believe questions remain unanswered as to why no other councillor or official who was present reported Mr O’Rourke for his comments when senior members of the administration knew about them.

Two other Labour councillors, Jim Scanlon and Jim Todd, were present, along with human resources and social work officials and clerks.

The Herald understands Mr O’Rourke’s question was not well-known within the Labour group and that Mr Matheson was alerted last Thursday before it was made public.

The comments, described by the complaining police officer as “a rant”, were made as a former care assistant was appealing against dismissal after being accused of raping the child.

The former employee was never charged and continues to deny the allegations.

The procurator fiscal did not proceed with the case because of a lack of witnesses although the girl was described as a credible witness.

A female police officer, who investigated the case, raised the matter after giving evidence at the personnel appeals committee. She referred her complaint to one of her senior officers, with Strathclyde Police then referring the matter to the Standards Commission.

Mr O’Rourke, who had been touted as a possible future chairman of the police authority, is reported to have asked if force was used during the alleged rape and when she told him it was not, he is alleged to have asked: “So she wanted it to happen?”

He is then alleged to have commented on the fact the child’s mother was a prostitute and made arguments about lowering the age of consent.

The veteran councillor is known as a maverick within Glasgow City chambers. One source said: “It may have been that the others in the room who knew Willie, thought it was just another outburst, it was his humour or he wasn’t expressing himself well. It’s telling it was someone with no prior experience of him who saw the comments for what they are. Everyone who was in the room will be investigated so it’ll come out in the wash.”

A spokesman for Unison said: “It begs the question about the calibre of person the administration is putting on this committee.”

Mr O’Rourke was also sacked from the boards of council-owned companies City Parking and Glasgow City Markets.

Mr Matheson said: “Councillor O’Rourke’s behaviour falls way short of the standard I and the public expect of Glasgow councillors. His comments to the Personnel Appeals Committee were disgraceful. We are elected by the public to protect the vulnerable people of our city. Councillor O’Rourke not only failed in his duty to do this but he also made highly offensive and inappropriate statements about a vulnerable young person.

“Councillors are by law the ‘corporate parents’ of those in our care. It is the single most important responsibility we hold and I will ensure every member of this council lives up to that responsibility.”