Monday 27 May 2019

Developer Joe O'Reilly lambasted over plans to build on 1916 site

Brian Hutton

A PARLIAMENTARY watchdog has unleashed a blistering broadside on one of Ireland's highest-profile developers over controversial plans to build on a 1916 Easter Rising monument.

Joe O'Reilly's Chartered Land was accused of a repugnant attack on democracy for snubbing an Oireachtas hearing on development proposals for Dublin's Moore Street.

Labour TD Michael McCarthy, chairman of the Joint Committee on the Environment, Transport, Culture and the Gaeltacht, declared his "utter disgust" that the developer - who owns the land at the centre of the row refused to appear before TDs and Senators.

"The committee and myself... made every reasonable attempt to bring them in," he said.

"We gave them assurances in relation to not being interrupted, being allowed access to address the committee through the chair. We gave them extended time - more so than any other witness.

"And they attempted to dictate to a joint committee of the Houses of the Oireachtas. That is repugnant to the idea of democracy."

In his outspoken remarks, Mr McCarthy said every possible effort was made to accommodate the developer but an insistence that evidence was heard in secret behind closed doors was "unacceptable".

A number of buildings and their surroundings on Moore Street - a key battlefield during the 1916 rebellion which led to independence - were declared a national monument five years ago.

Mr O'Reilly, the developer behind Dublin's Dundrum Town Centre and now one of Nama's most indebted clients, was granted permission in 2010 to build a massive shopping centre between Moore Street and O'Connell Street.

Campaigners say a number of buildings in and around Moore Street form part of the most important battlefield site in modern Irish history and are endangered by the proposals.

James Connolly Heron, great-grandson of 1916 leader James Connolly, said all it would take to safeguard the historic site is for Heritage Minister Jimmy Deenihan to simply refuse consent for works around the national monument.

"If he says no, the present planning application falls, we go back to the drawing board," he said.

Mr Connolly Heron pointed out that plans for the site have already changed three times since original regeneration proposals in 1998.

"It is beyond belief that the State has not said to this publicly-funded Nama developer - on a salary of 200,000 euros, paid out of the taxpayer's purse - 'Change the plans'," he said.

"We don't understand it."

Colm MacGeehin, legal representative for relatives of the 1916 leaders, told the committee that Chartered Land accepted they do not have the money to build the development.

Relatives feared a recent application to carry out works at the site was part of a plan to sell it on to "vulture" capitalists when the "laneways of history" needed to be saved, he said.

Independent TD Maureen O'Sullivan, who represents Dublin Central, said the development proposals are the equivalent of Amsterdam granting permission to build a shopping mall on Anne Frank's house.

Dublin city manager John Tierney said it was his understanding that "further steps" were being taken within Mr Deenihan's department towards reinforcing and extending commitments to the 1916 site.

But he said he was not privy to that process. Dublin City Council, headed by Mr Tierney, owns two buildings on Moore Street.

Mr McCarthy insisted he did not want to see a "skyscraper over Moore Street" and the Oireachtas committee would do everything in its power to find a balance in future development proposals.

Press Association

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