Labour Party leader Ivana Bacik has called on Junior Minister Niall Collins to answer further questions in the Dáil around a planning application for his family home in Co Limerick.
On Thursday, the Minister of State for Skills told the Dáil he was “entirely satisfied” that the planning application for his family home in Patrickswell met the Limerick County Council planning criteria in place at the time and was correctly adjudicated upon.
He did not, however, address a key question on whether a form submitted to the council as part of the 2001 planning application contained incorrect information on where he was living at the time. The form said he intended to move into the new home from his parents’ house, but it was reported that Mr Collins bought a property on Fr Russell Road, Dooradoyle, in 1999.
The Irish Times has on a number of occasions, including on Friday, asked Mr Collins and Fianna Fáil if the planning application form was incorrect to suggest he was living in his parents’ house at the time he applied to build a home at Patrickswell. Both Mr Collins and the party have declined to comment
Ms Bacik told The Irish Times that she believes he needs to now address the outstanding questions in the Dáil.
“We in Labour think it shows disrespect for the Dáil that Minister Collins sought a last-minute slot on Thursday evening to make his statement and didn’t agree to take any questions. What he went on to say failed to address the key question as to where he was living at the time the planning application was made. Instead of hiding from these questions Minister Collins should, could and still can clarify why the application said he was living at home with his parents if he did own and live at another property. Maybe an honest mistake was made, but only Minister Collins can address that,” she said.
Tánaiste and Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin strongly backed Mr Collins on Friday and said the information about where he was living at the time of the application was immaterial. He also criticised the news outlet which broke the story, The Ditch website.
“I think the fundamental point here now, and I think everyone needs to look at this objectively, the article that was published on The Ditch gave the clear impression that he was not entitled to the planning permission. That’s the impression that was created. It also created the impression that there was some false name given. The central point was around was he, or was he not entitled to planning permission. Now, if you look at the county development plan in 1999 which I looked at, from what I have seen there is no question but that he was entitled to seek planning permission on the basis that his land was his father’s, and on the basis that he had lived there before 1990.”
“That was not conveyed in the article. A lot of people are questioning about the two years, yes he lived 28 years, not 30, but it is not material to the application. We are talking about 23 years ago now. It is not material to the application. I think we need to all accept now ... it is very clear he was entitled to permission.”
The form filled out by his planning agent states that Mr Collins’s address at the time was Red House Hill, Patrickswell, Co Limerick, and that he lived there between 1971 and 2001.
A section of the form relating to so-called “pressure areas” – where development was subject to a number of criteria – states the following: “Having regard to your current living accommodation you are requested to clearly demonstrate your need for the proposed dwelling.”
The answer given on the form is: “Applicant proposes to build his own family home and move out of his parents’ house.”
Mr Collins did not address this issue in his speech to the Dáil on Thursday. Instead, he said: “The matter of whether I owned a house with my wife near Limerick city, which was outside the pressure area, was not an issue of consideration or policy at the time under that county development plan and whether I had stated that or not was immaterial to the planning adjudication process 23 years ago.”