Council chairman walks out of meeting
Row breaks out at Wicklow council after planning issues raised
Wicklow council chairman and senior management walk out of council chamber. Photograph Paddy Whelan
The chairman and senior management of Wicklow County Council walked out of the council chamber yesterday as allegations of impropriety in planning matters were raised at a meeting.
The disturbance arose after council chairman James O’Shaughnessy told councillors he had received a complaint about the actions of two council officials and a council member.
Mr O’Shaughnessy said he had sent the complaint by registered post to the Standards in Public Office Commission (Sipo) and he proposed there be no immediate discussion on the matter.
However, a number of councillors objected strongly, with Independent councillor Tommy Cullen identifying the writer of the complaint as well-known north Wicklow auctioneer and developer Gabriel Dooley.
Mr Cullen asked if the chairman could confirm the complaint included an allegation that “important issues were discussed in Dobbin’s restaurant in Dublin” in 2004. He said the issues discussed had “regard to planning and zoning” and asked the chairman to confirm that property developers Seán Dunne and Seán Mulryan attended the alleged meeting.
Mr Cullen turned to the Fianna Fáil leader on the council, Pat Vance, and asked him to confirm he was at the meeting with Mr Dooley, Mr Mulryan and Mr Dunne. Mr Vance did not respond or speak in the debate.
Addressing the remaining councillors, Mr Cullen asked if any of them wanted to acknowledge they had dealings with “these developers, because I didn’t”.
He called on those named in Mr Dooley’s complaint to “voluntarily step aside with regard to planning and zoning” in the county until the result of any investigation. It appeared, he said, as if “a golden circle runs this county”.
In the course of the exchanges Mr Cullen rose to his feet, as did other councillors.
Independent councillor Christopher Fox said the chamber could “not discuss this in the interests of natural justice and the three people concerned”.
Mr O’Shaughnessy said the first “formal complaint” made to him had been received on April 23rd and he had forwarded it to Sipo the next day. As the debate became heated, Mr O’Shaughnessy conferred with the management team, then rose from the table and left.