AN ALLEGATION that there was "neither fairness, equality, justice, democracy or accountability" in the planning system in Ireland for rural society was made at an Oireachtas committee yesterday.
Chairman of the Irish Rural Dwellers' Association (IRDA), James Doyle, made the charges to the Joint Committee on the Environment, Heritage and Local Government.
He told the committee that a policy of urbanisation was being forced on rural culture , with scant respect for historical settlement patterns, stretching back thousands of years.
Jim Connolly, acting secretary of the association, said his organisation's major complaint was the lack of genuine rural representation on An Bord Pleanála, and the legality of its decisions because of that.
"One of Ireland's most important industries, farming, is represented on the board since 2002 by two professional career planners who were employed by the board as senior planning inspectors at the time of their nomination by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (Ictu)," he said.
"Both of these were reappointed for a further five years by the then minister Dick Roche in 2007. They can be reappointed in 2012 for a final five-year term under the Planning Act - a potential of 15 years," he said.
Despite repeated questions to Minister for the Environment John Gormley, John O Connor, chairman of An Bord Pleanála and David Begg, chief executive of Ictu, no proper answers in relation to the nominations and appointments had been forthcoming.
He said one panel in 2001 was made up of Ictu, IFA, the ICMSA, the ICA and Muintir na Tíre and the legislation stated that only one member would be selected from this panel.
"Nonetheless, in 2002, two senior planning inspectors were appointed to the board through being nominated by the Ictu at the same time," he said.
"Given there is widespread unease regarding the total lack of rural representation on the board as well as the fact that the original appointments for five years have been extended to 10 years, the IRDA contend that nothing short of an inquiry in depth, under oath will reveal the full details surrounding the appointments," said Mr Connolly.
TDs and senators expressed support for the association's view, some claiming that rural people were being denied permission to build homes because of urban attitudes to rural areas.
The Irish Times