Sunday 23 October 2016

Monaghan firm told to repay €900,000 to EC

Published 02/06/2016 | 02:30

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Monaghan firm McCarron Poultry has been ordered by the European Court of Justice to repay €900,000 to the European Commission that was intended to be used to help construct a €46m biomass power plant in the county.

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The EU had intended to contribute €3m to the 28 megawatt power plant, but it never secured planning permission. It would have been the largest project of its type in Ireland. It was being spearheaded by Aiden McCarron.

But it's alleged that McCarron Poultry never directly received any of the money that had been allocated by the European Commission, and that it efforts to engage with the Commission have been unsuccessful.

When the project initially got off the ground in 2001, Cork-based South Western Services Co-Op was designated the coordinator, and the European Commission advanced €892,000 in funding to South Western Services Co-Op. Other firms involved in the power project included Danish company Aalborg Energie Technik.

A significant amount of work was undertaken, apparently costing hundreds of thousands of euro, to progress planning, with a formal planning application having been submitted in 2003, along with an environmental impact statement. An oral hearing was also ultimately held in relation to the project. A company called Monopower applied for the planning permission.

But in 2003, South Western Services withdrew from the project. That was a few months before Monaghan County Council sought additional information in relation to the planning application.

McCarron Poultry agreed, somewhat reluctantly, it's understood, to be the new coordinator on the project in order to prevent it from collapsing altogether.

The council ultimately rejected the power plant application in 2006.

The European Court of Justice was told by the European Commission that in 2004, the funds that had been advanced in 2001 to South Western Services Co-Op were transferred to McCarron Poultry, in light of the latter's new role as coordinator of the project. However, it's believed that McCarron Poultry has disputed this.

The EC told the European Court of Justice that some proofs of payments to firms engaged in the project were not provided, and that the total amount spent on the project from the EC funds that were advanced, was less than €100,000.

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