Former planning board official Paul Hyde to face criminal prosecution

DPP move follows Garda investigation into his conduct as deputy chairman at An Bord Pleanála

Paul Hyde, former deputy chairman of An Bord Pleanála

The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) has instigated a criminal prosecution against former An Bord Pleanála (ABP) deputy chairman Paul Hyde after a Garda investigation into claims of impropriety in his conduct at the planning appeals authority.

Three sources familiar with the case said the prosecution was initiated at Dublin District Court in recent days. Mr Hyde, who has always denied any wrongdoing, is facing charges under the Planning and Development Act in relation to allegations that he gave false particulars to ABP.

He resigned in July during a senior barrister’s investigation for Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien into claims of impropriety in his legal declarations to ABP and allegations that he was conflicted in some planning cases.

Mr O’Brien later sent the 120-page report by Remy Farrell SC to the DPP, Garda Commissioner Drew Harris and the Standards in Public Office Commission. On the advice of the DPP, the Farrell report remains unpublished.

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Gardaí submitted a file last month to the DPP after an investigation by the Economic Crimes Bureau, known formerly as the bureau of fraud investigation. When asked about the proceedings against Mr Hyde, the director of public prosecutions Catherine Pierse said: “Please note that the office of the DPP does not comment on individual cases.”

An Garda Síochána said: “An Garda Síochána does not comment on named individuals.”

There was no comment from Mr Hyde (49), who has an address in Co Cork. The charges centre on the period between 2014 and earlier this year, during which he served on the ABP board, first as an ordinary member and later as deputy chairman.

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The then minister for the environment Phil Hogan appointed Mr Hyde to the board in 2014. He became deputy chairman in January 2019. Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney appointed Mr Hyde, an architect by training, to the Irish Marine Institute board in 2012 when he had ministerial responsibility for such matters.

ABP chairman Dave Walsh recommended Mr Hyde’s appointment as deputy chairman to the then minister for housing, Eoghan Murphy. In addition to duties as deputy chairman, Mr Hyde was chairman of the ABP division that handled special fast-track planning applications for large housing developments.

Mr Hyde has never spoken publicly about the allegations against him, which surfaced first in reporting by the Ditch, an online news outlet.

Facing sharp questions in the spring over alleged conflicts of interest in big planning decisions, he insisted for weeks that all was in order in his legal submissions to ABP.

Mr O’Brien last week published a Cabinet-approved masterplan to overhaul ABP. Among the measures proposed was an expanded board, a new board appointments regime and plans to strengthen oversight of potential conflicts of interest. A separate report for the Office of the Planning Regulator on ABP saw expert reviewers call for “urgent reform” at the organisation.

Arthur Beesley

Arthur Beesley

Arthur Beesley is Current Affairs Editor of The Irish Times