Wednesday 17 September 2008

Chairman cleared of unethical rezoning allegation

A FIANNA Fáil councillor who is also the chairman of the board of Shannon Development has been cleared by Kerry County Council of an allegation he may have breached ethics laws when he voted to rezone land to facilitate the country’s first natural gas terminal.

The complaint was made by a group opposed to the €500 million Shannon Liquefied Natural Gas terminal and pipeline project near Tarbert on the Shannon estuary. The group has made a similar complaint against a Fianna Fáil Senator and former area councillor.

Separately, Kerry County Council is seeking general clarification on whether council representatives on harbour boards and development bodies have a conflict of interest under ethics legislation.

In March 2007, John Brassil, who represents the Listowel area, voted, along with all other councillors, at a Kerry County Council meeting to rezone a parcel of Shannon Development-owned land on the estuary from “rural general” and “secondary special amenity” to “industrial” to facilitate the building of the terminal.

Two weeks ago, the Kilcolgan Residents Association, which represents a number of local families opposed to the terminal, complained Mr Brassil had a conflict of interest in doing so.

Mr Brassil had denied any wrongdoing, saying he had always acted for the people and bringing 500 jobs and €500 million investment to the area “is absolutely what I am elected for”.

Council manager Tom Curran told the monthly meeting of the council on Monday evening he and the mayor of Kerry had investigated the complaint.

“As far as we are concerned there is no issue at stake and we will be reporting back accordingly,” Mr Curran said. Mayor of Kerry Tom Fleming (FF) told the meeting Mr Brassil had acted “for the common good and had no beneficial interest”.

In a second complaint made late last week to the council, the Shannon Foynes Port Company and to the clerk of the Oireachtas Committee on Climate Change and Energy Security, the residents association said former county councillor Ned O’Sullivan (now a Senator) and a former director of the Shannon Foynes Port Company had a conflict of interest when he voted for the rezoning.

Mr O’Sullivan has defended his support for the project. He said he was proud of the part he has played in bringing Shannon LNG to the Tarbert Ballylongford Landbank. Section 177 of the Local Government Act 2001 obliges councillors to withdraw from meetings if they have a connection with the matter under discussion.

The Irish Times

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