Councillors say pressure was exerted over planning

Fri, Mar 30, 2012, 01:00

TWO PROMINENT local representatives in Co Clare have spoken about the pressures and inducements they experienced in relation to planning and development issues.

While other councillors denied ever being offered inducements two Independent councillors, the former mayor of Clare, Councillor Patricia McCarthy, and former mayor of Shannon, Councillor Gerry Flynn, have spoken about how pressure was exerted on them by some developers to support financially lucrative developments in the middle of the building boom.

Shortly after his election to Clare County Council in 2004, Mr Flynn recalled he got four or five offers of free holidays. “I was asked where did I want to go on holidays. These people didn’t know me because I don’t do holidays. I was a new county councillor and maybe developers felt they could buy me.

“However, I was not for sale. The word got out and the phone calls stopped. I would never accept money in my life. I am paid by the taxpayer to do a job as a public representative and I do that to the best of my ability,” he said.

Asked if he had reported the matter to the Garda, Mr Flynn said the “dogs in the street” knew that planning corruption was rampant at the time, yet because of the common perception of being a “rebel” or “maverick” councillor he didn’t believe he would be taken seriously if he had contacted the Garda or planning authorities.

“Would it have made any difference? Everything is relative. Now councillors are far more wary of their responsibilities. Having said that, councillors should always be conscious of what needed to be done if any payment were offered.

“You can’t be a public representative and at the same time represent another individual. At the time I was doing a lot of community work and people were coming to me making complaints about the gardaí and officials.”

Ms McCarthy revealed several years ago that she was asked by a promoter “what would it take” to change her mind concerning her opposition to a development in the Shannon electoral area.

Even though no figure or exact payment was mentioned, the Independent Shannon councillor interpreted this as an improper approach and said she duly showed the person the front door.

Asked if she contacted the Garda, Ms McCarthy admitted she didn’t because a financial sum wasn’t specifically mentioned and acknowledged the statement could be taken up differently.

However, the former mayor didn’t even wait to obtain any clarification from the developer, quickly ending their brief conversation.