Two Government TDs who criticised an environmental watchdog’s objections to a new Glanbia cheese plant have shares in the dairy company.
The Dáil register of members interests show Fine Gael’s John Paul Phelan and Fianna Fáil’s Jackie Cahill both own stock in the billion-euro firm.
Both politicians have been vocal critics of An Taisce’s decision to appeal a High Court decision to grant planning permission to Glanbia for a new cheese processing plant in Co Kilkenny.
At a Fianna Fáil parliamentary party meeting, Mr Cahill called the decision by the watchdog as “treasonous”.
Mr Phelan is among a group of six Fine Gael TDs and senators who demanded An Taisce call off its appeal against the High Court ruling on the Glanbia development.
Mr Phelan and Mr Cahill both defended their ownership of Glanbia shares, saying they were linked to holdings they received due to their family’s involvement in the milk industry.
Mr Phelan said his father got a shareholding from Glanbia as a dairy farmer and the shares were passed on to him when his father died 14 years ago.
“I have registered them every year in the Dáil’s Register of Members Interests and there is no conflict of interest on my part,” Mr Phelan told the Irish Independent.
Mr Cahill said that, as a dairy farmer and co-op member, he got “two or three” different sets of shares from Glanbia over the years that he also registered with the Dáil since he has been a TD.
“As a milk supplier you automatically get a shareholding and I make no apology for it,” the Tipperary TD said.
Fianna Fáil TD Sean Haughey also has Glanbia shares but he has not publicly criticised the watchdog.
An Taisce’s decision to appeal the High Court judgment has caused a major political row, with Taoiseach Micheál Martin publicly condemning the environmental group’s decision in the Dáil.
Mr Martin was accused of using Donald Trump-style tactics by People Before Profit TD Paul Murphy.
The Taoiseach was also criticised by Green Party Cabinet Minister Roderic O’Gorman, who said politicians should stay out of the planning process. Dublin Central TD Neasa Hourigan has also been critical of her Government colleagues.
Meanwhile, Fianna Fáil TD Barry Cowen has put forward legislation that would require An Bord Pleanála to make decisions on planning cases and appeals within 12 weeks. Mr Cowen said other new laws need to be considered to “counter many frustrating tactics” affecting supply of housing and delivery of commercial developments.
“If An Taisce or any of its staff, supporters or a member of the public has an issue with Government policy, that’s fine, and they can lobby or stand for election to influence policy,” Mr Cowen said.
“But don’t frustrate the independent, professional adjudication of the Glanbia project approved on merit pertaining to planning laws.”
Speaking on RTÉ Radio One, An Taisce natural environment officer Elaine McGoff said the organisation had to appeal the judgment because it believed the Glanbia project would lead to an over-intensification in milk production that would have significant environmental consequences.
Meanwhile, An Taisce volunteer climate committee member John Gibbons likened Mr Phelan to a “barking dog”.
Mr Phelan accused Mr Gibbons of posting “personal abuse” about him on social media.
“These self-appointed judges need to be continually publicly questioned about plans to destroy farm livelihoods,” Mr Phelan added.
This story was updated on May 14, 2021