Irish News

Sunday 13 July 2014

Labour in thrall to FG on planning, says Ryan

Greens' leader claims Hogan running rings around smaller coalition party

JOHN DRENNAN

Published 07/04/2013|04:00

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Eamon Ryan

GREEN Party leader Eamon Ryan has claimed that the ongoing failure of the Government to adequately meet escalating public concern about poor planning practices is another example of how "the Fine Gael dog is wagging the Labour tail''.

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Mr Ryan was referring to the failure of the Coalition to adequately investigate complaints about alleged planning irregularities dating back to 2007 in Donegal, Cork city and county, Dublin city, Meath, Galway and Environment Minister Phil Hogan's political bailiwick in Carlow.

The previous Environment Minister, John Gormley, appointed six planning experts to comprehensively investigate these issues following a series of internal investigations.

However, a hostile Phil Hogan, who had claimed prior to taking office that many complaints were "spurious", did not proceed with the external investigations and then, accused Gormley of "not doing an ounce of work'' on the issue.

Ongoing Labour concerns led to an inquiry into planning practices but it was 'downgraded' to an internal review.

According to Mr Ryan, this consisted of "a limited, desk-bound research project, where authorities talked to other authorities, rather than the independent expert inquiry that we desired''.

In the wake of the publication of this review in 2012, Junior Environment Minister Jan O'Sullivan commissioned planning expert Henrik Van der Kamp to report into the findings of the review group.

Astonishingly, one of the chief findings of the report into the review, published this month, was that a further "research project to assess the quality of planning decisions (should) be carried out''.

Though the Junior Environment Minister promised she would "reflect'' on the report, Mr Ryan was scathing.

He said: "This does not resemble much of a democratic revolution, it looks more like the triumph of the politics of Yes Minister, with Phil being the minister that Labour are saying Yes to in this case."

The former Communications Minister said such a process "left Labour looking as though they are nodding obediently to Phil Hogan in Environment. They are like a sort of well-mannered dog, where Fine Gael – and Phil especially – say, 'sit, stay, fetch' and are always obeyed.

"To merely publish a report, say everything is fine, and leave it at that is indicative of how little both parties have learned about the causes of the current Irish crisis.

"The message from Fine Gael, and in this case Phil, is business as usual, death by a thousand reports, with Labour nodding it all through.''

Ms O'Sullivan, however, emphatically rejected the charges by Ryan. She said: "I am utterly determined to create a transparent planning system that citizens can trust."

And in a warning shot across the bows of her senior minister, she added: "Mr Hogan does not intervene in my brief and if he did I wouldn't accept it."

In addition, a Labour source said: "It is the minister's strong intent to implement the recommendations. The minister actually appointed an independent consultant to double-check the contents of the review''.

The source said, however, that the minister's current priority was first to "implement the recommendations of the Mahon Tribunal, and in particular the need to establish a planning regulator.''

It is believed that the planning regulator will act as a form of planning ombudsman, but whose focus will be on future developments as distinct to legacy issues.

Irish Independent

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