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Minister refers An Bórd Pleanala report to Director of Public Prosecutions

The report by Remi Farrell SC looked in to a number of decisions made by An Bórd Pleanala.

Image: Sasko Lazarov

THE GOVERNMENT HAS referred a report into decisions made by An Bord Pleanála to the Director of Public Prosecutions. 

Darragh O’Brien, The Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage referred the examination carried out by senior counsel Remy Farrell on the basis of advice he received from the Attorney General Paul Gallagher. 

It has also been forwarded to gardaí and the Standards in Public Office (SIPO).

A statement from the Department of Housing said it is now a matter for the DPP to decide if a criminal prosecution should be undertaken arising from the findings of the report.

The Minister has also sought the views of the DPP in relation to the publication of the report having regard to the possibility of a prosecution.

O’Brien, the statement said, is waiting for the conclusion of a separate internal report from a Senior Management Team within An Bord Pleanála which was requested by its chairperson Dave Walsh.

It is expected that this internal report will examine further allegations of alleged wrongdoing. The Minister’s press spokesperson said O’Brien will decide on any further course of action, including possible legislative amendments, following consideration of this report.

The Department said that a number of actions would be immediately undertaken to ensure that trust in the planning system is maintained.

This includes an independent organisational review of ABP will be carried out by the Office of the Planning Regulator (OPR) as well as previously announced workforce increases.

O’Brien said tonight that “maintaining trust and confidence” in the planning system is of the utmost importance. 

“I believe it is important that the report be published as soon as possible given the vital public interest in this matter, I have asked the DPP for her views on whether there are any parts of the report which should not be published at this time while the possibility of a criminal prosecution is under consideration. I will await her views before publishing the report,” he concluded.

Labour Party Senator Rebecca Moynihan called on the Minister to publish the report. 

“This debacle has been characterised by a lack of clarity and drip feed of allegations regarding An Bord Pleanála is deeply concerning and demands serious government attention. This is a matter of public interest and must be addressed without delay,” she said.

News of the referral of the report comes several weeks after the resignation of Hyde, who stepped down on 9 July while the probe was still ongoing.

Hyde had previously stepped back from the role after the investigation began and had denied all allegations made against him.

Within the terms of reference of the report, Farrell was to give his opinion on three separate planning decisions, including a decision by An Bord Pleanála (ABP) in relation to a housing development in Blackpool, Co Cork.

At the Oireachtas Public Accounts Committee in July, Chairperson of ABP Dave Walsh said that he has commissioned a team of senior managers to examine any issues arising, “with a view to identifying areas which may require improvements in relation to the suitability and effectiveness of existing controls, procedures and systems designed to manage potential conflicts of interest and related matters”.

“I will take whatever actions and reforms may be necessary and appropriate to
strengthen our systems and procedures to ensure that they are as legally robust and
fit for purpose as possible and practicable and with a view also to maintaining public confidence in the impartiality of the Board’s decision-making processes,” Walsh said

“I will also take account of any outcomes and proposed recommendations from the ongoing review being undertaken on behalf of the Minister, and the targeted review of the Board’s systems and procedures proposed to be undertaken by the Office of the Planning Regulator later this year,” Walsh added.

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