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New BoI chief lobbied Council on Dunne's Dublin 4 tower plan

RICHIE Boucher, the newly appointed chief executive of Bank of Ireland lobbied Dublin City Council on behalf of developer Sean Dunne.

Mr Boucher, who took up his post with immediate effect last Wednesday replaces Brian Goggin.

The Sunday Independent can confirm that in October 2007, Mr Boucher revealed his close association with Mr Dunne when he lobbied Dublin City Council on behalf of Mr Dunne's controversial Ballsbridge development proposals.

Mr Boucher's appointment was last week defended by the Government and hailed by Finance Minister Brian Lenihan, who said Mr Boucher was "an excellent person" who would bring a fresh dynamic to the bank.

But Opposition parties criticised the appointment of a senior figure from within the Bank of Ireland to succeed Mr Goggin.

Labour's Joan Burton said the choice of Mr Boucher was a missed opportunity to signal a new development in the sector, while Fine Gael's Kieran O' Donnell said the appointment sent the wrong signals to international markets.

Writing to the city council on October 2, 2007 while acting as chief executive of retail services at Bank of Ireland, Mr Boucher stated: "I write to confirm my strong support for this landmark proposal, which I believe will significantly benefit the City of Dublin and its citizens through helping enhance the concept of a living city and providing buildings of significant architectural merit befitting Ireland of the 21st Century."

Sean Dunne, who pioneered the massive development proposed for the Jurys-Berkeley Court site, reciprocated the admiration on the Marian Finnucane programme on March 15 last year when he spoke in glowing terms of Mr Boucher as "a very good friend of mine" who advised him on raising finance for the Ballsbridge project.

The development was recently refused permission by An Bord Pleanala, after initial approval by the city council.

While most submissions, of the hundreds sent to the council, were from objectors, others to write in support of Sean Dunne's project were Bill O'Herlihy, Mick Galwey, Keith Duffy, DJ Carey and chief executive of the IRFU Philip Browne.

Another significant letter of support came from Fianna Fail fundraiser Des Richardson, who said he passionately believed that the plans "make for a world-class design and are so long overdue to make Dublin a real living city".

Mr Richardson, of Serpentine Avenue, said the project is "wonderful, exciting, dynamic, and innovative. This is exactly what Ballsbridge needs at this time. This is what Dublin City needs".

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Offering an opposing view in a submission to the council was Dermot Desmond, of Ailesbury Road, who claimed that the scale of what was proposed was simply enormous and that the site would be completely overloaded.

"What might be fine in Dubai or the docks simply will not work in residential Dublin. It's as if the scale and design of the proposed buildings were chosen in isolation from the site location," said Mr Desmond.

In a different take on the Ballsbridge plan which found such favour with Mr Boucher, Mr Desmond stated: "This proposal assumes that diplomatic staff in established embassies in the area will be persuaded to leave some of the finest buildings in Dublin to move into a tower block.

"Grouping embassies together into one tall building would in fact be a sitting duck for a potential terrorist attack," he added.

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