Wednesday 23 August 2017

An Taisce defends €30,000 in corporate donations

Paul Melia

Paul Melia

'We thank Indaver for its support -- the money will be put to

good use'

HERITAGE body An Taisce has defended its decision to accept €30,000 in donations from supermarket giant Tesco and Indaver, a firm that is building incinerators in Meath and Cork.

There were calls yesterday for An Taisce to be 'stood down' until an investigation into its funding takes place to find out whether it has a conflict of interest.

However, An Taisce heritage officer Ian Lumley branded the complaints as "spurious" and pointed to the organisation's opposition to developments by both Tesco and Indaver.

The Save Newgrange Group, which opposes construction of a bypass in Slane, Co Meath because it runs close to the Bru na Boinne world-heritage site, said it was "concerned" that An Taisce had accepted corporate donations from groups that regularly sought planning permissions.

The call came after two councillors in Meath had also called for the donations to be investigated.

"We feel there is a definite conflict of interest, with An Taisce taking money from corporate and government sources," said Save Newgrange spokesman Vincent Salafia.

"We are very concerned about the corporate donations An Taisce is receiving from bodies that are regularly seeking planning permission.

"It should be stood down pending an investigation into its affairs."

The controversy follows criticism of An Taisce in January last year when Meath councillors accused it of putting jobs at risk by opposing a business park which was refused permission by An Bord Pleanala.

The group is regularly criticised for opposing planning applications. However, it says it only opposes schemes that break planning rules.

An Taisce receives some state funding and has 5,000 members, who pay annual subscriptions of between €12 and €45.

The group confirmed it had received €25,000 from Tesco and €5,000 from Indaver, which is building one incinerator in Co Meath and has planning permission for a second in Cork.

In its newsletter, it said: "This month saw a generous €5,000 donation come in from Indaver.

"An Taisce's history with Indaver has been colourful in the past and though we are sure that there will be more colour in our collective future, we see that this donation is a purely altruistic gesture and we thank Indaver for its support. The money will be put to good use."

Retaliation

Ian Lumley of An Taisce said the complaints were spurious as his organisation had objected to three planning applications from Tesco -- all of which were rejected -- and to Indaver incinerators in Meath and Cork.

"Our planning function is entirely funded by our membership," he said.

"The corporate donations go to our other work, such as environmental-awareness campaigns.

"Tesco and Indaver would be significant donations. We have taken three appeals against Tesco stores in Carrickmacross, Tuam and Bantry and we also opposed the incinerators."

Referring to the call by councillors in Meath for the donations to be investigated, he said: "This is a sort of retaliation because we have appealed a significant number of decision in Meath which were pushed through by councillors.

"The council is under investigation by the Department of the Environment and councillors are trying to shoot the messenger."

Meath is one of six local authorities being investigated by the department in relation to planning decisions made during the boom.

The other councils under investigation are Dublin City, Carlow, Galway, Cork City and Cork County.

Irish Independent

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