‘Serious irregularities’ in assembling of site, TD alleges

Higgins calls for inquiry into involvement of public bodies in Wexford development

Socialist Party TD Joe Higgins has outlined allegations of serious irregularities involving public bodies and taxpayers’ money in the Dáil. File photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times.

Socialist Party TD Joe Higgins has outlined allegations of serious irregularities involving public bodies and taxpayers’ money in the Dáil. File photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times.

 

Allegations of serious irregularities involving public bodies and taxpayers’ money in the assembling of a site that now houses offices of the Department of Social Protection and the Revenue Commissioners have been made in the Dáil.

Socialist Party TD Joe Higgins has called on the Minister for the Environment to establish a commission of investigation into the involvement of public bodies in “serious unanswered questions and anomalies surrounding the assembling of this site” in Anne Street, Wexford.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny was in the chamber when Mr Higgins raised the issue with Minister of State Ann Phelan, and Mr Higgins said: “I’m calling on you Taoiseach, I’m speaking directly to you, to take seriously what I am saying.

“It will be confirmed when it is examined, and you should not be found negligent by not assisting in seeking the answers that are badly needed in relation to this issue.”

No responsibility

Ms Phelan said the Minister for the Environment “has no direct responsibility for or involvement in the assembly of land by local authorities for the purpose of the provision of offices for Government departments or other sites of the State”.

She said that if there were issues with the manner in which the sites were assembled, they should be first raised with the borough council’s successor, Wexford County Council.

However, she undertook to speak to the Minister for the Environment directly about the issue.

Mr Higgins said documents he had seen were “prima facie evidence of very serious irregularities”.

He told the Dáil: “Wexford Borough Council and the Office of Public Works (OPW) must disclose all the facts about this development and put them into the public domain.”

The irregularities had had a “serious detrimental effect on the lives of innocent individuals” and were an “injustice to them and their human rights”.

The Dublin West TD said he did not raise instances of “specific wrongdoing or irregularity” lightly, but said the “Byzantine” nature of how the site was assembled, finishing in the late 1990s, had to be fully investigated.

He said he had not received any satisfactory answers from the council or the Revenue Commissioners after significant correspondence.

Ms Phelan said the OPW acquired two sites from Wexford Borough Council in the 1990s.

One was acquired through an agreement with the council, on May 22nd, 1995, for IR£145,000.

The other site was acquired from the council under an agreement of January 2nd, 1997, in exchange for a site owned by the OPW in King Street.

Ms Phelan said: “The site transferred to OPW has been assembled by Wexford Borough Council by compulsory purchase order.”

She said the OPW was not a party to the assembly of these sites, which were bought directly from the borough council.