Sunday 16 October 2011

Ahern denies writing letter to council for developers

FORMER TAOISEACH Bertie Ahern has denied that a letter he sent to the Dublin planning authorities five years ago was written on behalf of developers who were also donors to the Fianna Fáil party.

Mr Ahern was commenting yesterday in Abu Dhabi where he is attending the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum’s network of Global Agenda Councils which is discussing a broad range of international issues.

Asked to comment on a newspaper report that he wrote to Dublin City Council in June 2006 seeking an update on a development planned by Ballymore Estates, Mr Ahern said he had written “on behalf of constituents and not developers”.

“That’s par for the course on what we do all the time for residents,” he said. “Developers would never contact us.”

He added that developers with their highly qualified and experienced personnel would already be closely watching the progress of a planning application and Ballymore Estates had not been in contact with him or his office.

The report in the Irish Independent said that the letter sought an “early response” to a query on whether a controversial development called Royal Canal Park in Dublin 15 had been approved.

Ballymore, owned by Seán Mulryan and now in Nama, had made a number of donations to Fianna Fáil and individual TDs.

Mr Ahern also said that a letter he had written in August 2007 seeking an update on an application for a small housing project in south Co Dublin, where the developers were not party contributors, was sent on behalf of “an individual constituent who was worried about the development”.

All politicians except the minister for the environment are allowed to make submissions to local authorities and An Bord Pleanála on planning applications.

Mr Mulryan was unavailable for comment yesterday.

Former tánaiste Mary Coughlan who, according to the report, wrote to An Bord Pleanála as minister for agriculture in 2006, seeking an update on the application by Ballybane Windfarms to build a turbine windfarm in Bantry, Co Cork, could not be contacted for comment yesterday.

Separately, Mr Ahern defended the recapitalisation of the banks which began under his government, saying the policy was now being copied across Europe.

Mr Ahern noted the number of speakers at the network meeting in Abu Dhabi yesterday who were urging a recapitalisation of the banks in Europe.

“We were there, did that, three years ago, because we believed it was essential at the time,” he said.

“That’s what’s happening all over Europe now, the same thing, the recapitalisation of the banks by Europe is what’s happening in all the major banks and is now accepted policy.”

Asked if he felt mistakes had been made in the manner of implementing banking policy by the Fianna Fáil-led government, he said: “I’m not getting into the detail of how it was done or if it was done exactly right but the same concepts are now happening in Europe”.

Irish Times

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