Dempsey refuses to be drawn on dispute with leading party activist

 

MINISTER FOR Transport Noel Dempsey refused to comment yesterday on the dispute between himself and a prominent Fianna Fáil activist, businessman Jerry Beades, at a meeting of the party’s national executive this week.

The row came in the wake of a recent interview given by Mr Beades on RTÉ Radio One, in which he called on the Taoiseach to sack Mr Dempsey from the Cabinet, along with other Ministers.

Although Thursday night’s meeting was held in private, it is understood the disagreement between the two men arose at the end of the proceedings under “any other business”.

Sources said Mr Beades made a point that members of the national executive should have ready access to Ministers but, whereas the front bench was highly accessible when in opposition, the same was not true since Fianna Fáil had returned to government.

He mentioned the Minister for Transport in this context and Mr Dempsey is reported as saying in response: “Why don’t you tell the whole story?”

Mr Beades: “What is it?” The Minister is then quoted as suggesting that the reason Mr Beades had called for his head in the radio interview was that he (Mr Dempsey) had “refused to do certain things” asked of him by Mr Beades because the Minister considered them irregular.

Mr Beades said last night he did not know at the time what Mr Dempsey was talking about. Others in attendance were also confused but gathered that the Minister was claiming Mr Beades had asked him to intervene in a court case.

Mr Beades told The Irish Times that he asked the Minister what was he talking about and Mr Dempsey replied: “Your legal case.”

Mr Beades said he “couldn’t even remember” the case at the time but after carrying out some research yesterday morning, he realised it was a legal action against Dublin Corporation (now City Council) on a planning matter and he released a series of letters relating to it last night.

Dublin City Council, formerly Dublin Corporation, faced legal costs of an estimated €2 million following a 2005 High Court judgment in a case taken by Mr Beades. It came following 40 days in the High Court.

Mr Beades had taken an action against the council arising from its handling of two planning applications made by his company, Jerry Beades Construction Ltd, in 1993 and 1994. He had applied for retention of work done to his property at Hardwicke Place in the city centre, but was refused permission by the council and subsequently by An Bord Pleanála.

He alleged his case had been prejudged by the planner handling it.

Mr Beades said yesterday that Mr Dempsey, who was then minister for the environment,  had not responded to concerns raised by him at the time of the case. Had the minister done so, he could have saved the taxpayer the costs involved, Mr Beades claimed.

The developer said he had asked Mr Dempsey to retract the comments made at the meeting. A spokesman for the Minister said he had no comment to make.

Last night Mr Beades disclosed letters sent to a number of individuals, including Mr Dempsey, in the period 1997-2001.