Saturday 16 December 2017

Council bitterly divided over fate of land

Eimear Ni Bhraonain

WATERFORD County councillors were bitterly divided after a vote on the rezoning of lands at the centre of the corruption case.

Even the dogs on the street knew, on May 12, 2008, when councillors gathered for their monthly meeting that there was "a cloud" over the lands outside of Dungarvan.

That was the evidence of Fine Gael councillor Ann Marie Power, who described a "wall of silence" that met her ahead of the all-important vote on the re-zoning.

Speaking after the verdict yesterday, Ms Power recalled the day of the vote, and said she had been accused of being a "messenger" for John Deasy TD.

Mr Deasy, she was informed, should "go back to the Dail and mind his own business".

Only three Fine Gael councillors decided it was best not to rezone the farmland to industrial/residential.

This was despite a warning from planners that it was premature, Environment Minister John Gormley, media reports and the fact that a garda investigation was under way.

Ms Power remembers that she was accused of being anti-jobs by some of her council colleagues for the stance she took.

She said it felt like she was being "beaten with a stick" over her vote.

Ms Power said she was trying to defend her decision but was "spoken down".

Fine Gael was split 7-3 on the vote with the majority backing the rezoning.

Two councillors were absent from the meeting but the end result was that Waterford County Council voted to rezone the lands by 13-8.

Their decision to rezone the 65 acres of land was shortlived, however.

Unsatisfactory

Mr Gormley declared it "unsatisfactory" and reversed the rezoning by ministerial order.

He said that the decision did not comply with Department of the Environment Development Plan Guidelines and proper planning.

Some councillors reacted angrily to this -- speaking out in the media about Mr Gormley -- saying his actions were "undemocratic".

Irish Independent

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