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Criticism of planning investigations 'a smokescreen' says Minister

Junior Minister Jan O’Sullivan strongly rejected claims that it has not cancelled planning inquiries.

Image: Photocall Ireland

JUNIOR MINISTER JAN O’Sullivan has hit back strongly at opposition criticism that her department stopped investigations into planning decisions by several local authorities.

The Minister of State for Housing and Planning said yesterday that no investigation had been commenced by the outgoing government in the fist place.

She said the furore “is a smokescreen created by the unholy alliance of a thoroughly discredited Fianna Fail party and the man mercifully released by the Irish electorate from his “asylum” into the political wilderness – John Gormley.”

In a strongly-worded statement, O’Sullivan said that neither the previous Environment Minister Éamon Ó Cuív nor his predeccessor John Gormley had awarded a contract for the inquiries into planning matters in six counties.

The investigations relate to seven local authorities in Donegal, Galway, Carlow, Meath, Cork and Dublin and was announced by Gormley in June 2010.

Yesterday, Green Party leader and former Communications Minister Eamon Ryan accused the government of “arrogance” and said that the current government had “sat on it” and “done nothing” over the inquiries.

But O’Sullivan said “that a suggestion that Mr Gormley had launched any independent investigation is clearly not correct” saying that last year, her predeccessor Willie Penrose had asked officials to carry out an internal review that she said would reduce costs.

“This approach would allow that where the internal reviews found issues of substance requiring full independent investigation, this could proceed,” she said.

“Similarly, where the internal reviews might legitimately conclude that the complaints made were without substance, the further follow up could be reconsidered and the taxpayer would not be charged for unnecessary consultancy fees.”

O’Sullivan went on to say that there was no question of the internal review being ignored or shelved, stating that she expected to receive the internal review report in May upon which further investigations could be undertaken.

“There has never been at any stage a question of the review not being completed – this suggestion is untrue,” O’Sullivan added.

Read: Government accused of ‘arrogance’ over cancelled planning inquiries

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Hugh O'Connell

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