Ads urging increase in building heights paid for by Ronan backer

When published, the adverts did not contain any indication of who was behind them

The advert, which ran in the Times Ireland this week, is an almost exact replica of an image used in a letter sent by property developer Johnny Ronan to the Minister for Housing

The advert, which ran in the Times Ireland this week, is an almost exact replica of an image used in a letter sent by property developer Johnny Ronan to the Minister for Housing

 

Anonymous newspaper advertisements calling for an increase in building height limits for Dublin were paid for by a company linked to property developer Johnny Ronan and his financial backer, Colony Capital.

The Irish Times has learned that the ads, which argued that the existing 39metre height limit for buildings close to transportation hubs “isn’t sustainable”, were placed by Spencer Place Development Company (SPDC). When published, the adverts contained no indication of who was behind them.

SPDC is the company behind the development of the Salesforce Tower in the capital’s docklands area, which was featured in the ads and compared to other Salesforce “Towers” around the world, including the 326m version in San Francisco and the 247m version in Chicago.

“We’re not talking skyscrapers,” the text of the ad read. “Our global and European neighbours aim high and build high – it’s time for Dublin to raise our game too.”

The permitted height for the Dublin tower is 39m. The developer is attempting to secure permission for two extra storeys at the project, most recently going to the High Court in an effort to challenge Dublin City Council’s interpretation of the implementation of new rules on building height introduced by the Minister for Housing, Eoghan Murphy, last year.

The image used in the advertisement, which ran in the Sunday Times last week and in the daily edition of the Times Ireland this week, is an almost exact replica of an image used in a letter sent by Mr Ronan to Mr Murphy earlier this month.

Legal challenge

The image featured on Ronan Group-headed paper which the letter was printed on. In the letter, Mr Ronan told the Minister “we are… concerned that our efforts, and those of the IDA, are now being put in jeopardy” by the planning law issue. The letter is contained in court papers filed as part of the legal challenge to Dublin council by SPDC earlier this week.

The addition of the two extra floors would provide space for an extra 1,000 workers and increase fees paid to CIÉ, which owns the site, by €20 million, the development company has argued. Salesforce, the US multinational, has submitted an observation in support of the extra floors, as has IDA Ireland.

Mr Ronan has also written to Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe, Minister for Transport Shane Ross, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and IDA Ireland. The letter argues that DCC’s interpretation of the planning guidelines is “legally incorrect, but which nonetheless has had the effect of significantly delaying the implementation of the ministerial guidelines to developments in Docklands at a time of exceptional development activity to meet the critical need for housing and offices in the area”.

No comment

The Sunday Times did not respond to a request for comment, while a spokesman for Ronan Group Real Estate had no comment.

Under the codes of the advertising standards authority of Ireland, ads in general should disclose the identity of the advertiser. There are limited carve-outs for “teaser” ads, while the code does not apply to political, social or aesthetic matters on issues of public interest or concern.