Government ignores key Mahon Tribunal recommendation – Ó Broin
Sinn Féin TD and spokesperson on Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government Eoin Ó Broin has described as ‘deeply disappointing’ a decision by Minister for Housing Simon Coveney to ‘ignore the key Mahon Tribunal recommendation to establish an independent planning regulator.’ The call comes as the Planning and Development (Amendment) Bill 2016 resumes in the Dáil.
Deputy Ó Broin said:
“One of the key recommendations of the Mahon Tribunal report into planning corruption was the creation of an independent planning regulator. Mahon criticised the ‘over-centralisation of power in the hands of the Minister’ and recommended that ‘the Minister’s…ability to give directions to Regional Authorities and Local Planning Authorities should be entrusted to a Planning Regulator’.
“It is deeply disappointing that the Bill currently before the Dáil has completely ignored this recommendation. Instead, Government is creating a body that, despite its title, is little more than an advisory body for the Minister.
“While the proposed Office of the Planning Regulator will be tasked with assessing whether Councils are operating within Government planning policy and legislation, its only power will be to make recommendations to the Minister.
“Arguably, the Bill further centralises power in the hands of the Minister and Department which runs contrary to the spirit and letter of the Mahon Tribunal recommendation.
“The failure of the Bill to live up to the recommendations contained in the Mahon Tribunal has been publically criticised by the Irish Planning Institute and An Taisce.
“I am also concerned that the powers of the new Office to investigate planning irregularities and corruption are too weak. Again the ultimate power to act on the outcome of any such investigation rests with the Minister. It is also not clear whether the Office of the Planning Regulator will have the power to compel politicians or private interests when conducting such investigations.
“Given how much damage planning corruption has done to cities and towns, not to mention the reputation of politics, it is deeply disappointing that Minister Coveney did not strengthen the legislation that he inherited from his predecessor Alan Kelly.
“Sinn Féin will seek to amend the Bill at Committee Stage to enable it to fully realise the key Mahon Tribunal recommendation.”