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An Bord Pleanála

Review of certain An Bord Pleanála decisions 'needs to be done quickly' as deputy chair steps back temporarily

Paul Hyde, who has been in the role since 2019, has denied the allegations.

LAST UPDATE | 10 May 2022

THE DEPUTY CHAIR of An Bord Pleanála has temporarily stepped back from his role as two separate probes into his decisions continue.

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

Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien has commissioned Senior Counsel Remy Farrell to prepare a report on the matter. An Bord Pleanála said in a statement last week that it is also reviewing the allegations itself and seeking legal advice.

“An Bord Pleanála will fully co-operate as required with the process announced by the Minister,” the statement said. “The Board is also reviewing, and is seeking legal advice in respect of, certain issues arising from these matters.”

Last night, the body updated its statement to confirm that Hyde has agreed to absent himself from his role “for the time being, on a strictly without prejudice basis”.

“An Bord Pleanála considers that it would be inappropriate to make any further comment at present.”

Quizzed in the Dáil last week by Sinn Féin’s housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin, O’Brien said that the terms of reference of the Senior Counsel’s report would be published in full, and would cover all allegations currently in the public domain.

O’Brien said that the Office of the Planning Regulator has independently written to the chair of An Bord Pleanála requesting an outline of how the planning body deals with conflicts of interest.

He said: “The board is independent in its performance of its functions under the Planning Act. We have to guard that independence. Pending the outcome of the considerations, I am not going to make any further comment … the terms of reference will be published and shared when concluded, which will be very soon or in a matter of days.

“We need to let the senior counsel proceed with his time-bound work. I want it focused: I do not want it to drag on. I want this examined so we can deal with this issue efficiently.”

During Leaders’ Questions in the Dáil today, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said the Housing Minister only became aware of the issue last week and requested a report from the chairperson of An Bord Pleanala. 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. 

Speaking to reporters this morning, Sinn Féin’s O Broin said the Senior Counsel’s report is needed quickly. 

“What I would say to Minister O’Brien is that the Senior Counsel report has to take into account all of the allegations that are currently in the public domain,” he said.

That report also has to be published and published quickly, we still have a situation where the Mulcahy report into allegations of planning irregularities in Donegal has not yet been published despite the fact that it’s been with three separate ministers.

“So the report is welcome but needs to be done quickly, needs to be comprehensive, needs to be published. But crucially it needs to lead to a reform of An Bord Pleanála. There have been growing concerns about controversial decisions of the board and mounting legal losses for the board in a string of judicial reviews.” 

- With reporting by Rónán Duffy