Wednesday 13 December 2017

Rezone row councillors to snub FG probe

Conor Kane

TWO Fine Gael councillors facing disciplinary action over their failure to support a colleague who backed a controversial rezoning vote are refusing to attend an internal party hearing next week.

The duo -- Ann Marie Power and Maxine Keoghan -- were told by Fine Gael headquarters to attend the meeting in Dublin on Tuesday to explain their refusal last month to support a party member's bid to become mayor of Tramore.

Both councillors abstained because of Lola O'Sullivan's backing of a land rezoning in 2008 and have now renewed calls for an independent investigation into planning and zoning in Co Waterford.

Fine Gael ministers have already ruled out such an inquiry, while the Department of the Environment and Local Government said at the end of May there was "no wider prima facie evidence that would merit the establishment of an independent inquiry".

The land was at the centre of the Fred Forsey Jnr corruption trial in Waterford in May, which resulted in the former Fine Gael councillor being convicted of taking €80,000 in corrupt payments from a developer in 2006 in return for his support for rezoning.

The land was rezoned for industrial use in 2008, despite being the subject of a garda investigation and against the wishes of Waterford County Council officials and then Environment Minister John Gormley. Later, Ms Power told Mr Forsey's trial that the issue split Fine Gael in the council.

Disciplinary

The councillors who voted for the rezoning have always stood by their decision and maintained that they voted in good faith and that their sole concern was supporting job creation.

Now Ms Power and Ms Keoghan say they won't attend any disciplinary hearing until Fine Gael conducts an investigation into planning and zoning in Waterford, "along with the conduct of the seven councillors" who voted for the rezoning.

In a letter to party headquarters, both councillors asked for complaints made against them by colleagues in Waterford to be withdrawn "pending due process by the national executive council regarding the seven councillors".

And they want details of the disciplinary procedures sent to them, along with the terms of reference and the names of those due to attend.

The circumstances of any hearing should focus on the "circumstances in full", they said.

"As such we feel it is a reasonable expectation for us to attend any hearing only after the disciplinary hearing of the seven councillors has taken place," they said in their letter.

"As it stands we are unable to attend the disciplinary hearing scheduled for the 10th of July."

A spokesman for Fine Gael said yesterday the party wouldn't be commenting on the latest development as it was an internal party matter.

Ms O'Sullivan did not respond to calls from the Irish Independent last night.

Irish Independent

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