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After a two-year wait, a probe into 'dodgy' Donegal planning is finally finished

But it’s not known when the report’s findings will be made public.

A KEY REPORT on alleged planning failures in Donegal has finally been completed after more than two years, but it is not known when the findings will be made public.

The report – which examined about two dozens instances of potentially serious building irregularities in the county – is due to be sent to the housing minister shortly.

In 2010, inquiries were launched into alleged planning irregularities at seven local authorities across the country, including Dublin and Cork city councils as well as Donegal County Council.

An internal review looking at the issue was published by the Department of the Environment in June 2012.

Former Donegal senior county council planner Gerard Convier, who worked at the local authority for over two decades, provided the review with 20 sample cases that he said showed planning irregularities in the northern county.

It was reported that these included a petrol station built without permission and numerous houses built in scenic locations that were in breach of regulations protecting areas of natural beauty.

Convier claimed that many planning decisions were subject to political interference and said that some planning staff who sought to do their jobs properly were intimidated or bullied. The allegations date back to planning decisions that were made in the late ’90s.

Challenge

The 2012 review concluded that there was no proof of wrongdoing at the local authorities.

However, Convier challenged the findings in the High Court, saying that the review was inadequate and did not address many of his complaints.

The review’s section on Donegal was then quashed in 2013, and Convier received an apology and compensation from the Department of the Environment.

In September 2015, senior counsel Rory Mulcahy was appointed by the then environment minister, Alan Kelly, to properly investigate Convier’s claims.

PAC REPORT 758A7210_90518241 Former Environment Minister Alan Kelly Source: Eamonn Farrell/RollingNews.ie

It was hoped that the report would be completed within a few months, however it has now been almost exactly two years since it was ordered.

Finished

The report has finally been finished and has been sent to the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, where it will be assessed before being sent to the department’s minister, Eoghan Murphy.

But Sinn Féin’s planning and housing spokesman, Eoin Ó Broin, said serious allegations like those raised by Convier should be investigated much more urgently.

“It shouldn’t take years to investigate these allegations,” he said.

When someone is make allegations that suggest systemic issues, you would think that the department would investigate quickly to ensure that the people responsible are held to account.

While he said he did not want to make any judgement until the report is published, he added: “I hope the report is published in a speedy manner”.

A spokeswoman for the department said the contents of the report were being reviewed “with a view to preparing a submission for the minister as soon as possible”.

“Legal advice has also been sought in relation to the report. Once the relevant submission and any legal advices have been considered, the minister will be in a position to consider the matter of publication further,” she said.

The spokeswoman declined to comment when the report might be published.

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Written by Paul O’Donoghue and posted on Fora.ie

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