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Government must investigate corruption in our planning system

29 May 2024

Labour Leader and Housing Spokesperson Ivana Bacik TD has welcomed news that the Minister for Housing will incorporate a Labour proposal for a new offence relating to abuse of the planning objection process for personal financial gain.

Deputy Bacik said,

"During a housing and climate crisis, it is unforgiveable for anyone to profiteer from blocking new homes and infrastructure. However, we in Labour have become increasingly aware of concerns around abuses of the planning system. Before Christmas, we saw "RTÉ Investigates" expose some of these serial objectors who were attempting to extort money in exchange for withdrawing an appeal. There have been reports about a number of incidents where individuals have sought to abuse the planning system for financial gain. I identified one such case of this in the Dáil at that time, and challenged the Government to crack down on abuse and corruption in Ireland’s planning system.

"Following that debate, I introduced an amendment to the Planning Bill to make this a criminal offence. Our amendment included exceptions for local residents who would be adversely affected by a proposed development. Despite suggesting at the time that it may not necessary, I welcome news today that Minister O’Brien will amend the Planning Bill to incorporate our proposal and I look forward to studying the detail of his amendments.

"However, corruption in our planning system neither starts nor ends with this measure. An Bord Pleanála has been embattled with dodgy deal after PR crisis after sleight of hand. The Government continues to sit on the Public Sector Standards Bill since 2016, has failed to reform SIPO, and has failed to incorporate all ethics reforms recommended by the Mahon Tribunal over a decade ago. This new law will undoubtedly go some way to preventing further planning corruption but more is needed. Indeed, we have heard new allegations this week, this time in relation to a Fine Gael local election candidate, underscoring the scale of the problem.

"We are all aware of the quiet allegations which circulate in different communities. In many cases, there is no way for those whispers to be examined out in the open because accountability and scrutiny mechanisms for those in control of our planning system are simply not up to scratch. What is now needed is for the Government to listen to critics of Minister O’Brien’s Planning Bill who say it does not go far enough to achieve that “radical reset” the Housing Commission has called for, and to open an investigation into all existing cases of planning corruption nationwide. Until those steps are taken, and until we know the scale of the problem, it is untenable for the Government to insist that its Planning Bill is capable of addressing it."