Officials denied access at Chelsea

TWO city officials were denied access to the Irish Sky Garden during a visit to Chelsea to see how public money was being spent.

Diarmuid Gavin refused to allow John O’Riordan and Liam Casey from Cork City Council’s parks department on to the site without his solicitor being present.

The detail is contained in a series of emails released by the council yesterday under the Freedom of Information Act.

The documents show how Mr O’Riordan and Mr Casey had arranged with Helen Jones, the office manager of Diarmuid Gavin Designs, to visit the garden as it was being built on its site at the Chelsea Flower Show last May.

The spoke to Ms Jones on May 9 to discuss a site visit to Chelsea two days later.

She told them that they would have to wear personal protective equipment.

But once they arrived in London, they received an email from Diarmuid Gavin denying them access.

He wrote: “…it will not be possible for you and John to visit Chelsea tomorrow.

“No people from Cork City Council will be allowed onto the garden until my solicitor is present to listen to every word.

“We have a great deal of mistrust of the city council after our experience of dealing with them. I would also advise that when you do make an appointment to visit, that CCC’s solicitor also be present.”

The officials replied to Mr Gavin saying they had made the trip in “good faith,” with the agreement of Ms Jones. She had since become ill and was out of work.

“Cork City Council is investing substantial public monies in this project and it is custom and practice to carry out site visits,” they wrote and asked again to allow them visit the site.

But he wrote back: “I repeat what I said in my earlier email, Liam — if you wish to visit the site — to arrange through the appropriate manner.”

The officials reported the impasse to Fáilte Ireland and raised concerns about Mr Gavin’s commitment to delivering the Cork element of the project. The matter subsequently became the subject of legal correspondence between both sides.

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