Council members may sue An Taisce chief

MEMBERS of Kerry County Council are considering suing the chief executive of An Taisce after he accused them of putting the interests of an individual landowner before the public interest.

The local authority has demanded an apology from Michael Smith after he made the comments in a letter to County Manager Martin Nolan.

The row arises from a decision by the council to grant planning permission to Kerry Die Products for a 4.5m euro development, including a technology park, financial services centres and other buildings at Fossa, Killarney. Kerry Die managing director Liam O’Connor claimed he could be forced to close his 33-job operation if he did not get planning for an extension. The project would also create 100 jobs.

However, the decision was later reversed by Bord Pleanala.

Mr Smith claimed in a letter to the council that the members had “acted in the interests of an individual landowner against the public interest’’.

Raising the issue at yesterday’s council meeting, Cllr John Brassil said Mr Smith’s claim was grossly insulting to every councillor.

Cllr Michael Gleeson said he took grave exception to the claim which he described as a “rapier dagger wound’’ to councillors. The remark, he said, was not made during the cut and thrust of a debate, but was carefully considered before being written on paper. Mayor Michael Healy-Rae said it was a scurrilous accusation. He asked that the council’s legal personnel look into the matter and felt an apology should be forthcoming from An Taisce.

County Manager Martin Nolan told the meeting he had already written to An Taisce stating that such claims should not be allowed go unchallenged. He denied the council had acted against the public interest and said the public interest was central to the council’s decision.

It was agreed Mr Nolan would ask An Taisce for an apology and Cllr Brassil said he would like the response from Mr Smith before deciding on further action. Mr Nolan also hit back at An Taisce, which had claimed that the council had failed to achieve, or promote, sustainable urban and rural planning in the county. He said Mr Smith’s generalised judgment of the council members was unfair and inaccurate.

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