"Taoiseach has been let off the hook on bigger scandals" -- Ó Caoláin
Commenting on the current controversy over the finances of Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, Sinn Féin Dáil leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said the reality was that the Taoiseach had been "let off the hook" on bigger scandals than those alleged in the current controversy. He said the facts revealed today about how developers were being allowed to "shred" Part V of the Planning and Development Act and refuse to build social and affordable housing showed the "hand-in-glove relationship" between the FF/PD Government and unscrupulous developers.
The Cavan/Monaghan TD said: "Most people will question why the Taoiseach received large donations and/or loans from a group of business people and why he did not address his personal affairs, including legal bills, in the way most people do. The only reason this is in the public domain is because the Mahon Tribunal is investigating if the Taoiseach received money from property developer Owen O'Callaghan.
"The reality is that the Taoiseach and his Government have been let off the hook on bigger scandals than those alleged in the current controversy. At the core of these scandals is the close relationship between the Fianna Fáil/PD government and property developers and the oil and gas industry. These scandals include:
· The changing of Part V of the Planning and Development Act after intensive lobbying from developers. The original Part V required developers to provide 20% social and affordable housing in all developments. This was changed by the FF/PD Government at the developers' behest so that they can buy their way out of their obligations by paying money to local authorities. As a direct result lower income families have been deprived of homes
· The granting of major tax concessions to developers of private hospitals. Bertie Ahern's successor as Finance Minister, Charlie McCreevy, admitted that he brought in this concession after lobbying from a private hospital developer in his constituency.
· The allocation of land at public hospital sites to private developers to build private for-profit hospitals while our public hospital system struggles from crisis to crisis.
· The ongoing robbery of our natural gas and oil supplies by multinationals that have been handed these resources free gratis by successive governments, including the present administration.
"All of these measures are legal but totally unethical and against the public interest. The Taoiseach and his colleagues should be held accountable for them."