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An Bord Pleanála

Terms of reference being finalised for An Bord Pleanála decisions review, says Taoiseach

Paul Hyde has temporarily stepped back from his role as two separate probes into his decisions continue.

THERE WILL BE no “undue delay” in the publication of the terms of reference into the review of issues relating to the deputy chair of An Bord Pleanála (ABP), Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said.

Paul Hyde has temporarily stepped back from his role as two separate probes into his decisions continue.

Hyde, who has been in the role since 2019, has denied all allegations made against him of potential conflicts of interest.

Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien has appointed Senior Counsel Remy Farrell to carry out a report for him on the matters concerned. 

During Leaders’ Questions in the Dáil today, the Taoiseach said the housing minister has acted “quickly and promptly”.

He said the terms of reference and timelines are currently being finalised, but said there “won’t be any undue delay”.

The independence of the board “is important in itself”, said the Taoiseach.

There cannot be “any perception of any potential inappropriate behavior” or “failure to disclose”, he said, adding that he was making such comments without any judgment and without prejudice.

Social Democrats Catherine Murphy said it was a “very serious matter”, not least because ABP was the “decision-maker” for dealing with Strategic Housing Developments (SHDs).

Under fast-track planning laws introduced in late-2016, proposed developments of over 100 units could bypass city planners and go straight to ABP for a decision.

SHDs are currently being phased out. 

Murphy said “there is a serious loss of confidence” in ABP, stating this has “completely undermined the board’s “confidence, their integrity and their professionalism”.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said the housing minister only became aware of the issue last week and requested a report from the chairperson of ABP.

Martin said he believes the government should await the outcome of the examination of the allegations before the minister comes before the Dáil in relation to it. 

Outlining the timeline today, the Taoiseach told the Dáil that Minister O’Brien was made aware of correspondence between the Hyde and the board secretary, which was brought to the housing department’s attention by the chairperson of ABP. 

“This concerns a conflict of interest disclosed by Mr Hyde on 3 May 2022 in relation to a 2021 board decision. Mr Hyde states in his correspondence that he only became aware of this conflict of interest on 28 April 2022,” said the Taoiseach. 

O’Brien then requested a report from the chairperson of ABP when he came became aware of this matter on the 6 May 2022.

The chairperson responded to the minister on the 9 May, stating that Hyde had agreed to “absent himself from his duties as deputy chairperson for the time being on a strictly without prejudice basis”.

Hyde will not be in attendance at the board’s offices and will not have access to the board’s electronic systems or documentation. His caseloads have been reassigned, said the Taoiseach.

Martin said the Office of the Planning Regulator has also written to the chairperson of ABP requesting the board outline the systems and procedures it has in place to ensure effective compliance with the statutory duties provided for under law regarding declaration of interests.

The Taoiseach said he understand ABP has responded, and the planning regulators are considering its response.

“Needless to say, all board members are required to make a declaration of certain interests under Section 147 at least once a year and the register of interest is available for public inspection,” said the Taoiseach.

He added that where a conflict of interest comes into question, a board member must disclose it to the board and not take part in the discussion or consideration of any decision making.

“I think it’s important that we would allow for these reports to be completed to make a more informed comment in the aftermath of them,” said the Taoiseach.

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