Land agency announced regional offices to pre-empt criticism, records show

Claims of ‘anti-rural’ stance spurred agency to reveal plans to open in Cork and Limerick

The Land Development Agency was criticised by Independent TD Richard O’Donoghue, who said it was too focused on urban areas.

The Land Development Agency was criticised by Independent TD Richard O’Donoghue, who said it was too focused on urban areas.

 

The Land Development Agency (LDA) was eager to release news of opening regional offices ahead of criticism expected from a rural TD, internal records show.

The records detail how the LDA wanted to announce it was setting up shop in both Limerick and Cork amid claims from a Dáil member that it had an “anti-rural stance”.

Independent Limerick TD Richard O’Donoghue had criticised the agency, saying it was too focused on urban areas and did nothing for smaller towns and villages.

Internal emails detail how the LDA sought to push forward the announcement, with an email from public relations adviser saying: “Sorry I hadn’t realised the timeline. Any reason for the rush? I will get you something over.”

A response from a member of the senior management team said: “Apparently, Richard O’Donoghue TD going to say something about LDA tomorrow.”

In reply, the PR adviser directed the agency to an online article: “He’s [O’Donoghue] already had his cut.”

The following day, the agency’s corporate PR adviser said he was “still not mad” to rush out news of the regional offices but understood why it might be necessary.

‘Overclaiming’

The LDA was also told to be wary about “overclaiming” on the announcement in early March, according to records released under Freedom of Information.

Emails also reveal how the then chairman of the agency, John Moran, sought “clarity and movement” late last year on opening an office in Limerick.

The LDA had been temporarily using space provided by the local authority in Limerick, but Mr Moran said this was not a long-term solution.

In an email, he said: “I will have less comfort working from here on LDA matters as they are too confidential.”

Mr Moran said there was a growing expectation from the board of having physical offices in regional locations and suggested one property in Limerick seemed suitable.

An email said: “I had heard that the presence of an apartment in the basement was considered a negative, but I could not see why.

“Indeed, it might even open up a possibility some time to take over that lease if the tenant left for a corporate flat (and some additional overflow space).”

In early March, the LDA formally announced it would open offices in Cork and Limerick with further regional offices possible as developments get under way.

Footprint

A statement from the LDA said: “Making better use of State land to improve the supply of housing is a nationwide project, and so it is appropriate that we expand our office footprint beyond Dublin.

“Plans by the LDA for regional offices are continuing and, subject to the constraints of public health measures, we hope to open offices in Cork and Limerick this year.”

Mr O’Donoghue said he stood by his criticism of the agency’s focus on urban areas. “The LDA is there to cater for cities with 30,000 people and more. And when it comes to Limerick – it will only cater for the city.

“I’m elected in the county and unless they reduce that 30,000 number down to a much lower level, it will not impact in the county.

“It’s completely based on city investment, and as a representative for the county, I welcome houses coming to Limerick, but I want the focus to be on city and county.”