Report into planning corruption in Donegal remains unpublished

Eoghan Murray confirms that Rory Mulcahy’s report has been on his desk since June 2017

 Eoghan Murphy says he is waiting for advice from the Attorney General before considering the report in full.   Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Eoghan Murphy says he is waiting for advice from the Attorney General before considering the report in full. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

 

A report by a senior counsel into alleged planning corruption in Co Donegal remains unpublished almost a year after being submitted to the Minister for Local Government.

Rory Mulcahy was appointed three years ago to prepare a review into alleged planning irregularities by Donegal County Council, dating back over more than a decade.

The allegations from a whistleblower who worked inside the council include that a colleague submitted applications on behalf of friends and family, forged signatures and destroyed recommendations of other planners.

Mr Mulcahy was originally due to submit his final report on October 31st, 2015, but the then Department of Environment blamed “unforeseen delays” which held the inquiry up by more than a year and a half.

Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government Eoghan Murphy has confirmed the final report has been on his desk since June last year.

“My department is currently reviewing and assessing the contents of senior counsel’s report and I have requested the advice of the Attorney General in respect of a number of points,” he said.

“When I have received the attorney’s advice, my department will finalise a submission for me and I will be in a position to consider the report in full and to take any appropriate further action.”

Delay

Fianna Fáil’s Barry Cowen, the party’s former housing and planning spokesman, has demanded Mr Murphy go before the Dáil to explain the reasons for the hold up in the inquiry.

“It has been nine or 10 months since this report landed on the desk of the Minister,” he said. “Taking that period of time for his officials to formulate a response, and a recommendation to him, seems strange to say the least.”

Mr Cowen said the Minister needed to act more quickly in order to assure the electorate the planning system was beyond reproach and that if there was any wrongdoing, there would be accountability. “The public are entitled to know why this is taking so long,” he said.

In 2013, the Department of the Environment agreed to a High Court order overturning its own findings of no evidence of wrongdoing in the planning department of Donegal County Council, mostly during the 1990s.

It also apologised and agreed to pay €25,000 damages to former senior planner Gerard Convie, who had made the claims. Mr Convie resigned from Donegal County Council in 2007.

Dismissed allegations

Findings in a Department of the Environment report placed before the Dáil in June 2012 dismissed his allegations of irregular planning decisions within the council.

Under the High Court settlement, the report’s findings were quashed.

The department also acknowledged the “sincerely held concerns” of Mr Convie in relation to planning matters in Donegal and regretted any adverse comment on his motivation and any negative impact on his good name, professional integrity or reputation.

Mr Convie had compiled a dossier of cases spanning more than a decade in which be believed regulations had been flouted.

He took the dossier to the government and persuaded then minister for the environment John Gormley to begin an independent review. This was later dropped and replaced with an internal review with the change of government in 2011.

That was completed in 2012, and its conclusions that there were no evidence of irregularities, as well as its questioning of Mr Convie’s motives, led to his successful High Court challenge.