Tuesday 28 February 2017

Quinn nephew denies vote on city planning broke the law

Michael Brennan and Louise Hogan

THE nephew of Education Minister Ruairi Quinn denied yesterday that he had broken the law by voting on a planning motion relating to Dublin city centre -- while part-owning a building in the area.

Labour councillor Oisin Quinn owned one sixth of a Dublin city centre office building, which had been valued at €16m and is leased to the Revenue Commissioners.

He was involved in voting on motions that led to a new height limit being set for inner city office and residential buildings as part of a Dublin city development plan.

The Standards in Public Office Commission (SIPO) is now investigating 14 alleged contraventions of the 2001 Local Government Act by Mr Quinn -- which include an alleged failure to disclose his interest in the building at a city council meeting, not withdrawing from the meeting and voting on height-related planning motions.

The complaint to SIPO was made by an Independent councillor, Ciaran Perry, and 'Village' magazine editor Michael Smith.

Mr Smith came to prominence when he placed an advert inquiring into planning matters back in the 1990s -- and it contributed to the establishment of the Planning Tribunal.

Mr Quinn yesterday said his interest in the building was "remote" from the wider issue of a development plan for the city.

The councillor said he did not think "any reasonable person" would think his interest in the Mount Street property owned with his siblings and disclosed on his public declarations would have any influence on his actions.

Interest

Proposals to set a height of seven storeys for the inner city Dublin area for office developments were ultimately adopted by Dublin City Council (DCC) in December 2010.

Mr Quinn said another councillor told him in the summer of 2010 that the development plan was a fraught matter and someone was looking into his declarations of interest.

The councillor said he thought he would be "extra cautious" and consulted Dublin City manager John Tierney and Terence O'Keeffe, the law agent for DCC, on the issue. Mr Quinn said they told him they believed he would have no problem in relation to the issue.

He proceeded to flag his interest in the Mount Street property to council members at the start of a meeting in July 2010. In November 2010, the complaint was lodged days before councillors voted to adopt the plan.

The ethics registrar found there had been no breach of the ethics framework.

Under examination by a lawyer for the commission, Mr Quinn said if owning an interest in a property in the entirety of the city was going to preclude someone from voting they might as "well elect someone from Limerick" to the DCC.

Mr Quinn agreed with the proposition that when the lease on the Mount Street property ended in 2016, redevelopment could potentially be considered by the landlord.

A planning report commissioned for SIPO said that for any benefit from the raised height to accrue, the Revenue building would have to be demolished and rebuilt with more levels. It said this was unviable because there was a 20pc occupancy rate in the Dublin office market.

The councillor pointed out high-rise office developments had been granted around the city under the last development plan and disagreed there was increased development potential under the new plan.

The commission will issue a report early next year.

Irish Independent

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