The person at the centre of RTÉ Investigates allegations concerning “pay-offs” to objectors in the planning system has confirmed that no financial inducement was sought or offered in connection with the withdrawal of his appeal against Diageo’s planned €200 million brewery for Newbridge.
On Tuesday, John Callaghan stated that his Sustainability 2050 “unconditionally” withdrew its appeal on November 23rd against the March decision by Kildare County Council to grant planning permission to Guinness producer Diageo for its “net zero carbon” brewery. Sustainability 2050 describes itself as an environmental NGO and is based out of Kells, Co Meath
The new brewery for Littleconnell is to generate up to 1,000 jobs during the 20-month construction period and will lead to the creation of a further 70 jobs when operational, according to Diageo
An Bord Pleanála notified all parties in the case on November 27th of the decision by Sustainability 2050 to withdraw the appeal.
However, the case remains live as it is currently evaluating a second third-party appeal by a John Lynch from Athy, Co Kildare and the case is currently with a board member for decision.
In an interview on Tuesday, Mr Callaghan said that he never had a meeting with Diageo or anyone representing Diageo concerning the Sustainability 2050 appeal in connection with the brewery plan.
He said, “I can confirm that I had no meeting with Diageo or any agent for Diageo or anyone known to them or anyone known to me.”
He added: “Nothing was sought from me or anyone known to me. Nothing was offered by Diageo to anyone I know or to anyone I have to do with.”
A spokeswoman for Diageo said on Tuesday that “we have not had contact of any kind with the individuals behind Sustainability 2050 either directly or indirectly”.
Mr Callaghan said that he withdrew the appeal because of the delays in the case stating that Diageo Ireland has gone on record to say that planning delays were jeopardising the project.
Asked had Sustainability 2050 received any financial inducements to withdraw its appeal, Mr Callaghan replied “no”.
Mr Callaghan further confirmed that no financial inducements were made to any third party acting on behalf of Sustainability 2050.
He commented: “I resent this reference to payment...I resent even being asked the question. It is not the first thing I expect anyone to say.”
In a later statement on Tuesday sent via email, Mr Callaghan said that the Diageo proposal will require an Industrial Emissions licence which requires an application to be made to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the project would come under the scope of the new revised Energy Efficiency Directive.
He said, “Hence it is pragmatic to expedite the project to the next permitting stage. The establishment of a single appropriately resourced permitting authority could drastically reduce the lead time for major projects by rolling all national and EU law assessments of a project into a one-stop shop.”
Asked to comment on the content of the RTÉ Investigates programme, Mr Callaghan said, “I don’t want to comment on the matter.”
Mr Callaghan was given a right of reply by RTÉ Investigates to the allegations aired against him and his brother Micheál, and he provided a one-line statement saying “please be aware that neither of the parties referred to in your letters has done anything unlawful”.