Bord Pleanála deputy chair can not access systems until investigations end – Taoiseach

Paul Hyde stood aside from role amid investigations into alleged conflicts of interest

The deputy chairman of An Bord Pleanála will not have access to their electronic systems or documentation until investigations into alleged conflicts of interest are completed, Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said.

Mr Martin said Paul Hyde will not be in attendance at the State's planning body's offices and his cases files have been reassigned "to ensure the efficient discharge of the functions of the board".

Mr Hyde has temporarily stepped aside from his role amid growing disquiet in planning and political circles over claims of impropriety in his personal declarations to the planning authority.

He had insisted the allegations made against him were groundless. On Friday, however, he acknowledged an undeclared conflict of interest when signing off a decision in an appeal taken by his sister-in-law.

Social Democrats TD Cian O'Callaghan and People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett raised the issue in the Dáil on Tuesday and asked for the Minister for Housing to make a statement on the matter in the chamber.

In response, Mr Martin said the housing minister was made aware of correspondence between Mr Hyde and the board’s secretary, which was brought to his department’s attention by An Bord Pleanála’s chairperson, about concerns of a conflict of interest disclosed by Mr Hyde on May 3rd, 2022 in relation to a May 2021 board decision.

“Mr Hyde states in his correspondence that he only became aware of this conflict of interest on April 28th, 2022,” Mr Martin said.

“Minister O’Brien requested a report from the chairperson of An Bord Pleanála when he became aware of this matter on May 6th, 2022 and the chairperson responded to the minister on Monday, May 9th that Mr Hyde had agreed to absent himself from his duties as deputy chairperson for the time being on a strictly without prejudice basis pending completion of the chairperson’s analysis of the matters raised.

“In this context, Mr Hyde will not be in attendance in the board’s offices, have access to the board’s electronic systems or documentation and his case files have been reassigned to ensure the efficient discharge of the functions of the board.”

Mr Martin said the housing minister had also appointed senior counsel Remy Farrell to conduct an examination of the issue.

“I think in fairness to the Dáil schedule, it wasn’t envisaged that there would be a statement this week in relation to it,” he added.

“I think we should await the outcome of the examination and then by all means have a debate and the minister would come before the house in relation to it.”