Coveney jumps the gun to support Cork project

Cork City Council has yet to give the €160m project on six acres the green light

Simon Coveney: Minister for Foreign Affairs and former housing minister was quick to welcome Horgan’s Quay development in Cork City.

Simon Coveney: Minister for Foreign Affairs and former housing minister was quick to welcome Horgan’s Quay development in Cork City.

 

News that Paddy McKillen and Tony Leonard are joining forces with builders BAM to invest €160 million in redeveloping an unused six-acre site between Cork’s main railway station and the River Lee for apartments, shops and offices, has already drawn a positive response from the city.

Quotes from Cork Chamber and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Simon Coveney – a TD for Cork South Central – welcoming the news were included in this week’s statement from HQ Developments, the joint-venture company set up for the project.

No surprise there.

Chambers of commerce will welcome anything that looks like it will boost business and politicians always want to link themselves to good news.

But Coveney’s admittedly stock quote – that such projects enhance Cork’s reputation as a hub for business and enterprise – was surely jumping the gun.

First of all, Cork City Council has yet to give permission for the project. Any minister, no matter what their portfolio or constituency, should surely allow a local authority to decide on the merits or otherwise of any plan before expressing a view, particularly a positive one.

Endorsing the project before the authority charged with ensuring that it meets all the required standards, and will, in fact, enhance the city, looks like he has already taken one side over the other, should there be any sort of question or dispute over planning for the project.

Should there be any debate, the only side he should be on is that of the public interest. Whether or not that coincides with the private interests behind the Horgan’s Quay development remains to be seen.

Close ties between elected officials and property players were partly blamed for the policies that sent our economy over a cliff a decade ago. A senior Government minister lending his support to a project at such an early stage smacks too much of the same thing.

You can be sure that Coveney did not want to give that impression. Nevertheless, you wonder if our politicians learned anything from the mistakes they made just a few short years ago.

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