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Opposition dismisses 'whitewash' report on councils' planning inquiries

Jan O’Sullivan’s report on irregularities in seven county councils came a day before a Dáil vote on resuming them.

FF's Niall Collins believes Jan O'Sullivan's planning report is a
FF's Niall Collins believes Jan O'Sullivan's planning report is a "whitewash".
Image: Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland

OPPOSITION PARTIES have dismissed as a “whitewash” a government report on planning irregularities in Ireland’s local councils, suggesting it had been deliberately timed to clash with a Dáil vote on the subject.

The report, published by junior planning minister Jan O’Sullivan yesterday, dealt with seven county and city councils in which reviews had been originally instigated by the previous Fianna Fáil-Green Party coalition.

Though the report set out 12 actions to address the deficiencies outlined in the report – and was supplemented with pledges from O’Sullivan that all its recommendations would be followed – it did not find any evidence of malfeasance.

Fianna Fáil’s environment spokesman Niall Collins was unimpressed with the report, however, and said it appeared the report was deliberately timed to clash with a vote on a Dáil motion laid down by his party.

TDs will vote this evening on a motion dismissing the government’s claim that the internal review process was more effective than the independent ones instigated under the previous government, and calling for new independent inquiries.

The motion suggests that party politics may have influenced the decision to discontinue the inquiries – noting that all but one of the seven councils concerned are controlled by either Fine Gael or Labour.

“The report referred to in the press release was initiated with the sole purpose of rowing back from the last Government’s decision to instigate a series of time-limited and fully costed independent investigations,” Collins said.

Those who take the time to read the recommendations will see that the Government’s idea of comprehensive reform is very different to any reasonable person’s understanding of the phrase.

For example, one of the hard-hitting recommendations is that the department should issue a circular letter to every local authority reminding them of the law.

Collins called on government TDs who were frustrated with the internal inquiries to support Fianna Fáil’s motion when it is voted upon shortly after 9pm this evening.

The Green Party also rubbished the report, describing it as the “classic cover-up job”.

Its planning spokesman Tom Kivlehan said the public would never find out “what the real stories were” in the seven councils, because Fine Gael and Labour were in control of both central and local government.

Party leader Eamon Ryan, appearing on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, said there was “no sense that this government would do anything real” to enforce a revived planning scrutiny system.

Read: Planning review finds deficiencies but no evidence of wrongdoing

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Gavan Reilly

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