Sunday 22 October 2017

FG clears six councillors over Forsey land zoning

Conor Kane

Fine Gael has cleared six councillors of wrongdoing for backing a controversial land rezoning at the centre of a corruption case.

The land was at the heart of the trial of former Fine Gael town councillor Fred Forsey Jnr.

He was sentenced to six years in prison last summer for making representations to officials and members of Waterford County Council to get the land rezoned and for receiving corrupt payments of €80,000 from a property developer.

An internal Fine Gael inquiry found there was no "wrongdoing" on the part of the six Waterford-based councillors as they supported the rezoning in the belief it would help create jobs. And it ruled out sending on the matter to Fine Gael's disciplinary committee.

But the inquiry found that the decision to vote against the advice of council planners was "ill-advised" and showed "poor judgement".

At the time of the vote in 2008, the land was already the subject of a garda investigation and was rezoned against the advice of then-environment minister John Gormley and county council management.

But two Fine Gael councillors who demanded an investigation into their six party colleagues for backing the rezoning have been disciplined.

Party headquarters have temporarily removed the whip from them for refusing to back a Fine Gael councillor for a mayor's position because of her support for the rezoning.

Fine Gael councillor Maxine Keoghan has lost the party whip until the end of next February as a result of not voting for Fine Gael colleague Lola O'Sullivan's candidacy as Mayor of Tramore in June.

Fine Gael councillor Ann Marie Power, who also failed to support Ms O'Sullivan, has had the party whip removed until the end of next year as she also abstained on other votes in the meantime.

The decision was revealed at an internal meeting of Waterford-based Fine Gael councillors on Thursday night.

Failure

Both Ms Keoghan and Ms Power are expected to appeal the decision to remove the party whip.

Their colleagues had made complaints about their failure to support the nomination of Ms O'Sullivan for mayor.

The six Fine Gael councillors who voted for the rezoning against the advice of council planners were Brendan Coffey, Declan Doocey, Nora Flynn, Pat Nugent, Lola O'Sullivan, and Mary Greene.

In a letter to councillors, Fine Gael general-secretary Tom Curran said the six councillors believed that by rezoning the lands from agricultural to industrial use, they "would assist in securing badly-needed jobs for west Waterford and Dungarvan in particular".

But he said even though this decision was legitimate, it was, "in hindsight, ill-advised".

Irish Independent

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