Planners in row over Cork city Islamic centre

Councillor Ken O'Flynn outside 72/73 Shandon St, a Muslim information centre which is facing planning enforcement action.

Planners have issued a warning letter to the owner and developer of a Muslim information centre at the centre of a planning row in the historic core of Cork City.

A spokesman for Cork City Council’s planning department confirmed last night that senior planning officers have conducted site visits to the Cork Dawah Centre at 72-73 Shandon St on foot of several complaints from local residents and local public representatives about how it is being run.

The spokesman said planners have opened an enforcement file and formed the opinion that the centre is operating in breach of two key conditions attached to the granting of planning permission for the centre in July.

The centre’s owner has now been given four weeks to comply with the conditions before further enforcement action is considered.

“But we are hopeful that these issues can be resolved through negotiation and consultation, as is often the case in situations like this,” the spokesman said.

Farghal Radwan, a consultant anaesthetist at the Bon Secours Hospital who owns the buildings, managed a medical facility there for 15 years.

He was granted planning permission in July for a change of use of the first floor from medical-related uses to religious information centre.

In granting permission, city planners directed that it not be used as a place of public worship, that it could only be used between 9am and 7pm from Monday to Saturday, and not on Sundays or public holidays.

However, local Fianna Fáil councillor Ken O’Flynn said he has been inundated with complaints from residents about people coming and going from the centre as early as 5.30am, and as late as 11pm as recently as last Sunday.

Locals have accused Dr Radwan of trying to open a mosque by stealth.

“I have no problem with people praying. I would actively encourage it,” said Mr O’Flynn.

“My difficulty with this centre is that it was granted planning for a Muslim information centre — not a mosque.

“I have no difficulty with the Muslim community. My problem is with the location. Shandon St is not the right location for a mosque. Whether you are operating a convent or a mosque, you cannot put two fingers up to the council.”

Dr Radwan said he does not believe that parking associated with people visiting the centre is having a negative impact on what he described as a “commercial area”.

“If the people are there at the time of prayer, they will have to pray,” he said.

Dr Radwan has invited Mr O’Flynn and members of the local community to visit the building.

And he said the city’s 5,000-strong Muslim community are organising ahead of the next local elections, and will support candidates who support them.

The city council’s planning department is expected to monitor closely the activities at the centre over the next two to three weeks to ensure it complies with its planning conditions.

According to its Facebook page, the Cork Dawah Centre is an Irish-registered non-profit organisation which was established to invite Muslims back to the true teachings of the Koran and the Sunnah, and to educate non-Muslims about the true teachings of Islam.

‘My opponents are trying to turn planning difficulties into an anti-Muslim issue’

An outspoken city councillor has rejected claims that he is leading a crusade against the Muslim faith.

Fianna Fáil councillor Ken O’Flynn — whose father, former Fianna Fáil TD Noel O’Flynn, was at the centre of a race row in 2002 — is leading a campaign for a crackdown on a Muslim information centre in Cork.

However, he insisted last night that his stance on the centre has nothing to do with race or religion.

“What my opponents are trying to do is turn planning difficulties into an anti-Muslim issue,” saod Mr O’Fyynn.

“They want to turn this into a racial or religious issue to avoid the real issues. If this was a convent or a synagogue, I would have the same argument. It is irrelevant whether you are black, white, yellow, Muslim, Roman Catholic, or Jewish — if you’re breaking the rules, that’s unacceptable.”

He said the Polish community represents the largest minority in his electoral area, and that he welcomes multiculturalism and diversity in the city. “The more the merrier, as far as I’m concerned,” Mr O’Flynn said.

Former taoiseach Bertie Ahern was forced to dissociate himself from ‘racist’ remarks made by Noel O’Flynn in 2002.

At the time, Noel O’Flynn was accused of asylum seeker-bashing after he claimed that there were too many bogus asylum seekers coming to Ireland, and to Cork in particular. He spoke out at what he called spongers and freeloaders abusing the State’s asylum-seeker system.

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