Councillors may face legal action over GAA vote

CONCERNS have been raised that some of Cork’s city councillors could face legal action following a controversial vote on the future of Páirc Uí Chaoimh.

Independent Cllr Chris O’Leary has asked city manager Joe Gavin to make a statement on the matter at next week’s city council meeting.

He has called on Mr Gavin to outline the legal implications of a council vote earlier this month to support contentious GAA plans for an ambitious€40 million revamp of the stadium.

A total of 17 councillors ignored Mr Gavin’s recommendation and the advice of senior planners in relation to certain aspects of the project and agreed to “facilitate in principle” plans to expand the stadium and develop a centre of excellence nearby.

The vote has paved the way for discussions on the sale to the GAA of almost seven acres of land around the stadium.

However, the site is part of a bigger land area acquired under compulsory purchase order (CPO) for the development of a large public park.

It will have to be rezoned, requiring a two-third majority vote by councillors, before the GAA plan can go-ahead.

But Mr O’Leary, who voted against the project, said because the land in question was acquired under the terms of a CPO, where Cork City Council identified the land-bank as crucial for the future development of the entire docklands project, this could have legal implications for the councillors who voted in favour of the project.

He has asked Mr Gavin for his opinion on whether the former occupants of the site could have a reasonable case in arguing that the terms of the CPO were not adhered to by the city.

He has also asked Mr Gavin to comment on whether stakeholders in the docklands have a case for arguing their land could be devalued by the lack of public open space as proposed in the docklands plan.

Mr O’Leary has also asked Mr Gavin to comment on whether the stakeholders face increased planning obstacles due to the reduced open amenity space should the sale of land proceed.

He has cited legal advice given to county councillors in Kerry in 2004.

In a written document, Dermot Flanagan SC said case law clearly states that councillors “are not entitled to disregard technical advice . . . from the executive and there must be technical advice in support of their resolution in circumstances where the executives’ advice is to the contrary”.

He warned them that if an applicant or others suffered damage or injury as a result of deficiencies specified by council planners, the councillors could be sued personally for ignoring the advice and granting permission.

The issue is due to be discussed on Monday.

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