Fianna Fáil should probably avoid debates on whether it is plausible that a Minister for Finance would not have a bank account, how a modestly paid Taoiseach can afford to own an island, if a win on the horses is enough to explain away Byzantine complexity in somebody’s personal finances or the catalogue of decision making that characterised what happened in the Dublin Docklands Development Authority, the Minister for the Environment, Community & Local Government Phil Hogan told the Dáil.
Opposing a Fianna Fail motion calling for further inquiries into alleged planning irregularities by a number of county councils, he said if he was a member of Fianna Fáil and wanted to make this Government uncomfortable, he would steer clear of planning.
“Fianna Fáil Deputies tried once more, with the help of Sinn Féin, to create a smokescreen to deflect attention from their appalling record on planning,” he said. “With goldfish-like memories, they have already expunged the criticisms so damningly levelled at their party by the Mahon tribunal. The Government has not forgotten and will not forget.”
Since the Mahon report was delivered in March, the Fianna Fáil Party had seized on the planning review, which was initiated when it was in office but was not followed through, as a means to deflect attention from the fact that during its time in government it rode roughshod over proper planning and sustainable development at local and national levels, said the Minister.
Commenting on the recently published review, he said the starting point went back to June 2010 when the then Minister, former Deputy John Gormley, announced an independent review involving seven local authorities. When he left office more than seven months later, he had still not commenced the reviews. What he had done was issue a request for tenders for the carrying out of a review and issue letters to potential panellists regarding provisional appointment to a panel of planning experts pending confirmation of certain conditions.
“He left office in January 2011 before appointing a single expert,” he said. “It must be made clear that the suggestion that he had instigated an independent investigation before he left office and that this was subsequently downgraded is not the case. However, that does not suit the argument.”
The seven authorities had been selected by John Gormley, he had set the parameters for the review and he had selected the issues in each case to be reviewed, he said.
“He did nothing more. Our rigorous review, which was carried out by the Department and which we will now subject to full independent scrutiny, showed no evidence whatsoever of corruption or malfeasance.”
The Fianna Fáil motion was defeated by 77 votes to 36.