Thursday 29 March 2007

Writer's holiday home row sparks An Taisce rift

A REGIONAL division of An Taisce said it was "thrown to the wolves" by its head office over the controversy surrounding plans by journalist Fintan O'Toole to quadruple the size of his holiday home.
Earlier this month, Mr O'Toole secured planning permission for his extended holiday home south of the Burren village of Ballyvaughan in Co Clare.
Clare County Council made its decision after An Taisce's Head Office withdrew an objection lodged against the development by the Clare Association, labelling the proposal "criminal".
As a result, An Taisce came under sustained attack and its then Director, Gavin Harte unreservedly apologised to Mr O'Toole and withdrew the objection.
Mr Harte said that the objection was lodged by the Clare Association without the knowledge or approval of Head Office.
But yesterday the Chairman of the Clare Association, Oliver Moylan said the apology should never have been issued from Dublin.
"We were virtually thrown to the wolves by Dublin. It was most unfair. All we got was abuse for it. We're not monsters. We're volunteers and there's only so much people can take.
"As chairman I would've received snide remarks on the street such as 'O'Toole sorted you out'. I don't need this. All of this causes personal stress.
"The Fintan O'Toole situation changed everything and the environment will suffer as a result."
Mr Moylan described the association's relationship with An Taisce's Head Office as "frosty".
Mr Moylan confirmed that the objection was written by an unidentified local man in Ballyvaughan, but was signed by the secretary of the Clare Association, Anny Wise. It was lodged when the council had a policy that An Taisce submissions could not be viewed until after a decision was made.
"We never, ever believed that the letter objecting to the O'Toole development would end up in the public domain," said Mr Moylan.
Asked to respond to Mr Moylan's comments, An Taisce's Heritage Officer, Ian Lumley would only say that the application was dealt with appropriately by the council and declined to comment further.
Gordon Deegan
© Irish Examiner

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