FF call for planning inquiry dismissed

 

A FIANNA FÁIL demand for an inquiry into planning in Waterford has been rejected amid angry Dáil exchanges.

Party environment spokesman Niall Collins referred to the six-year sentence imposed on former Dungarvan Fine Gael councillor Fred Forsey for taking bribes from a property developer.

“It is entirely in the public interest that people know exactly what happened in Waterford,” Mr Collins said. “How could members of Waterford County Council zone land while a Garda criminal investigation was in progress?”

He said that two Fine Gael councillors had also sought an inquiry. He asked why Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan and Minister of State Jan O’Sullivan were involved in a cover-up.

“For whom are they covering up?” he asked.

He said Judge Gerard Griffin, in imposing the sentence, had stated it was important that corruption should not be allowed into the fabric of society and that it caused inequality. Mr Collins called for the inquiry as part of a reopened independent investigation following the recent report of planning irregularities in seven local authorities.

Ms O’Sullivan, who was taking ministerial questions with Mr Hogan, said she completely rejected Mr Collins’s allegation.

She added that in the case of the seven local authorities, the Government was completing a review which previous minister for the environment John Gormley intended to initiate.

“What about Waterford?” asked Mr Collins.

“Waterford has nothing to do with it. It is not one of the seven local authorities selected by former minister Gormley,” Ms O’Sullivan replied. She said there had been no allegations of corruption in the seven issues raised with Mr Gormley.

“The review is completely separate to the type of corruption pointed to in the Mahon report. We will have a whole of a Government response to the report very shortly.”

Ms O’Sullivan said the Waterford case was separate and showed the court system worked.

“Somebody was taken to court and found guilty and will now serve his sentence, which is as it should be,” she added. She added that Mr Collins should not try to misinform the public on such issues.

Denying that he was attempting to do this, Mr Collins said Waterford was a local authority like the other seven local authorities. “Is the Minister of State saying that there is no issue in Waterford?” he asked.

Ms O’Sullivan said she was not.

Mr Collins questioned the credibility of Ms O’Sullivan and Mr Hogan, adding that what was happening was a complete disgrace.

“The deputy is a complete disgrace,” said Ms O’Sullivan.

“I am not a complete disgrace,” replied Mr Collins. “This is a matter of public interest and the Minister of State is doing the bidding for the other.”

Mr Collins asked why Ms O’Sullivan was not prepared to come into the Dáil and demand to know, in the public interest, what happened in Waterford.

“Why do we have a courts system? The courts have found out what happened in Waterford,” replied Ms O’Sullivan.

Mr Collins said the court had convicted one person. “What about the people who zoned the land while a Garda investigation was going on?”

Mr Hogan interjected to say that there had just been a court case on the Waterford issue.