Monday, 17 December 2007

Allen the Fall Guy?

AS THE saga continues surrounding the issue of Cllr. Lorcan Allen's involvement in excessive land zoning in Gorey and his alleged subsequent bust up with fellow Cllr. Malcolm Byrne, the Local Government Enquiry Forum has asked the question is Cllr. Allen to be used as the fall guy, while the real issues at the centre of this controversy are left untouched.

In a statement this week released by the Forum, the question was asked can the Fianna Fáil Party afford such a bust up and the departure of one of its longest serving members.

"Whether the party is big enough to accommodate Cllr. Allen after his performance on Prime Time is another question. Whether it can survive without him is even closer to the point. If he goes will he bring the heart and soul of the party with him? A culture of playing wild and loose with the rules has been well inculcated into the body politic in the county. It didn't happen over night. The display on Prime Time was a well practised seasoned ideology without content or direction, symptomatic of a grab all quick buck culture. Too much land was zoned in Gorey, fine, but who made the decisions. Who stood to gain, more importantly, who will suffer the consequences?"

According to the Forum, Cllr. Allen is not alone where bad planning practices have been put in place across the county and the entire system must be addressed as well as individuals.

"Planning permission is the problem. So that constituents can be accommodated Co. Councillors have to cooperate with planning executives. The ballot box always beckons. Compromise becomes paramount, a working relationship develops. This leads to the slippery slope where roles become confused. It is not the role of the councillor to pander to the whim of the executives. Planning permission should be available by right not given on the basis of preferment.

"The councillors should not have to sell their souls in order to keep on the right side of officials; the tail should not wag the dog. The Co. Councillors are elected to represent the public good not to do the bidding of paid executives. They are also elected to look after public assets. They are not doing this. They might as well not be there at all."

The statement also suggested that should Cllr. Allen walk from Fianna Fáil, then what becomes of the greater issue at hand.

"Is Cllr. Allen being used as the fall guy to distract attention away from other more contentious areas? If he leaves the party as threatened will this act as a safety valve. A sacrificial lamb so that other reputations maybe salvaged. Prime Time was only the tip of the iceberg. It would be ironic that after all the promise the programme served to allay the fears of those parties involved in the racecourse deal rather than confound them."

This week the suggestions that Cllr. Allen may walk have not become reality and both he and Cllr. Byrne are still members.

Cllr. Byrne told the Gorey Echo that he never called for the resignation of his party colleague and that he will make himself available for any mediation talks suggested by Fianna Fáil but still stands over his recently expressed views.

Cllr. Allen refused to comment on the issue this week.

Deborah Coleman
Gorey Echo

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