Government accused of ‘skulduggery’ on National Development Plan

Taoiseach rejects ‘political stroke’ claims in Dáil

Labour TD Alan Kelly said the Government was behaving in a way that was “unacceptable”,“sly” and “undermines the process” in relation to the National Development Plan. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

Labour TD Alan Kelly said the Government was behaving in a way that was “unacceptable”,“sly” and “undermines the process” in relation to the National Development Plan. Photograph: Gareth Chaney Collins

 

The Government has been accused of engaging in “skulduggery” by trying to avoid a vote on the National Development Plan and the National Planning Framework.

Opposition TDs have criticised Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar for ignoring the Oireachtas as it prepares to unveil its investment plans for the next 25 years.

Fianna Fáil TD Éamon Ó Cuív, Sinn Féin’s Eoin Ó Broin, Labour TD Alan Kelly and Independent Michael Fitzmaurice say the Government is avoiding democratic scrutiny.

Speaking on Wednesday, Mr Kelly said the Government was behaving in a way that was “unacceptable”,“sly” and “undermines the process”.

He said: “They are engaging in skulduggery, launching something before the legislation is passed.”

The Government is launching the investment plans on Friday in Co Sligo. Planned legislation governing the NPF says the plan will be put before the House for its approval before it is published.

Mr Varadkar has said politicians should not be distracted by procedure and focus on what is contained within the plan.

The group of TDs are due to meet with Mr Murphy at 4pm today to outline their concerns. Avoiding a vote in the Dáil and the Seanad, they say, is a direct contradiction of the Government’s own legislation.

The Oireachtas committee on housing has also written to the Minister for Housing to express their disappointment that such is to proceed without scrutiny.

Mr Ó Cuív insisted his party is fully united that there should be a vote in the Oireachtas.

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He said launching a 25-year plan without support is “foolhardy” and would mean it would not last the test of time.

Asked how far the party was willing to push this issue, Mr Ó Cuiv said: “What we would hope is sense would be seen before the weekend, that the Government would realise you cannot go ahead with this without the buy-in of the Oireachtas.

“It should not take threats to get that across.”

Meanwhile, in the Dáil, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar rejected claims that the Government was engaged in a “political stroke” in launching the National Planning Framework before legislation had been passed.

Sinn Féin finance spokesman Pearse Doherty accused the stroke of pulling a political stroke in publishing the draft framework on Friday next to avoid scrutiny before the passage of the legislation in the Seanad this week.

There were heated exchanges in the Dáil and repeated interruptions, which prompted Ceann Comhairle Sean Ó Fearghaíl to warn TDs that they were bringing the House into disrepute.

Mr Doherty said the Government was pulling a political stroke to avoid a vote and keep the confidence and supply agreement in place with Fianna Fail who could then say they had nothing to do with the framework.

He said there was a sudden change and the framework was to have been published next week.

But the Taoiseach rounded on the Opposition and claimed it was a “classic case of opposition for opposition’s sake” and “political parties opposing a plan they haven’t even seen yet”.

The National Draft Plan expounds planning strategy for development over the next 20 years.

Mr Varadkar said “the national planning framework will automatically go on a statutory footing as a consequence of the fact that the draft motion was adopted in November”.

When Mr Doherty said the legislation had to be approved by the House, Mr Varadkar said the “draft plan” and he spelt it out “D-R-A-F-T” plan had to be approved by the House and that the Government would have “regard” to the views of the House.

He said the draft plan was approved last November.

Labour leader Brendan Howlin claimed the plan had been changed by “Ministers with the sharpest elbows”.

And he said that “resolutions of this House are meaningless”, when “ the laws we enact are completely undermined”.

Mr Howlin accused the Taoiseach of “ignoring the three year programme of successive governments to ensure this plan is not properly debated in the Dáil before it is published”.

But Mr Varadkar said “the sad thing about this is the extent to which politicians from the Opposition have wrapped themselves in process and procedure”.

The Taoiseach said the legislation being debated had not been passed by the Seanad or signed by the President “so it is not the law”.

He said the Opposition should look to the ambition of the plan that 200,000 more people would be living in Rural Ireland by 2040, with other cities including Cork and Galway growing at twice the rate of the capital and that Dublin would be “growing up rather than out”.