Refusal to downsize led to financial woes
Investors' rejection of restrictions backfired
Published 26/08/2010 | 05:00
FF constituency colleagues objected to the plan without knowing he was involved
EMBATTLED Senator Ivor Callely's refusal to compromise over the scale of a controversial seafront property development played a key part in his financial downfall, planning documents reveal.
Despite getting permission for the multimillion euro apartment development, Mr Callely and his co-investors were unhappy that the size of the development was being restricted by Dublin City Council.
The group lodged an objection with An Bord Pleanala, a move which gave local residents extra time to mount a campaign of opposition to the plan.
The developers had planned to build 44 apartments on the site of two houses on Clontarf Road, Dublin.
Records seen by the Irish Independent show council planners were happy -- despite local opposition -- for a reduced development to be built, with one floor knocked off the planned height of four storeys.
But Mr Callely and his co-investors, Galway businessmen John O'Dolan, Daragh Sharkey and Denis Kenny, insisted they wanted to proceed with their original plans and appealed the restriction. That gamble backfired spectacularly when An Bord Pleanala subsequently rejected the plan.
The planning board found that the development would be "overly dominant and intrusive" in the form the developers wanted it. It also said some windows and balconies would result in "unacceptable overlooking" of nearby dwellings.
The decision left Mr Callely with a major financial headache as he and his co-investors had borrowed €10m towards a project they could not develop.
The former junior minister stretched himself financially to fund his end of the deal, taking out six mortgages on properties he co-owned to raise cash.
Investec Bank, which provided the funding, had a receiver appointed to the building project last year. Mr Callely's involvement was largely concealed as his name did not appear on any of the planning applications.
His failure to publicly declare his involvement also backfired on him as his Fianna Fail constituency colleagues, TD Sean Haughey and councillor Deirdre Heaney, both objected to the plan without knowing he was involved. Both wrote letters to the planning authorities supporting local residents in their opposition to the plans.
Mr Callely's involvement with the project in 2007 coincided with his decision to tell authorities he had changed his normal place of residence.
He claimed €81,000 over three years by claiming he lived at his holiday home in west Cork, rather than his actual home in Clontarf, from which he would have had to claim much more modest expenses.
A Seanad committee found he had misrepresented his normal place of residence for the purpose of claiming extra travel expenses and hit him with a 20-day suspension.
Mr Callely has rejected the findings and says he wants them reviewed.
Of the €81,000 claimed, nothing has been paid back.
Mr Callely is to face two further Seanad inquiries. One relates to a complaint that he claimed almost €2,900 for mobile phones and car kits using invoices from a firm that had gone out of business.
The second relates to his failure to declare his interest in a number of properties.
His register of interests between 2007 and 2009 includes just two properties.
But documents filed with the Registry of Deeds show he was the joint owner of at least seven others. Mortgages were drawn down against one of these in 2006, and six others in 2007.
Mr Callely resigned from Fianna Fail on Tuesday, just before the party was about to suspend him for "conduct unbecoming a member".