Cork City Council facing €15m legal action over land sale

Cork City Council has been threatened with legal action, exposing it to potential damages of up to €15m, over a second attempt to sell a publicly owned landbank for development.

Cork City Council facing €15m legal action over land sale

Councillors have now sought senior counsel advice ahead of a special meeting with the city’s legal advisor next Tuesday to discuss the disposal of the 2.83-acre Deanrock site to a developer for €450,000.

Several councillors made sensational claims last night about the pressure they were put under to vote in a particular way in relation to the disposal and they criticised city management for the way the entire tendering process has been handled.

“It stinks,” Independent councillor Mick Barry said.

It is the latest controversy to hit attempts to sell the site, which has lain idle for six years.

Under the latest disposal attempt, preliminary plans seek to build a three-storey building with a supermarket, local convenience stores, a pharmacy and a HSE primary care centre.

However, the project faces bitter local and cross-party political opposition.

It was expected to be on the agenda at last night’s council meeting but councillors claimed they were told the disposal would only feature if they were going to vote in favour of disposal.

They suspended standing orders to discuss the issue as several members of the Togher Community Association, which opposes to the project, watched from the public galleries.

Fianna Fáil councillor Sean Martin said it was the first time he has encountered a disposal situation like this. “It’s usurping local democracy,” he said.

Sinn Féin councillor Chris O’Leary said: “We must defend our right to make decisions. We are being stifled, gagged.”

Labour councillor Ger Gibbons said the process was tarnished and Fianna Fáil councillor Tim Brosnan called for the local government auditor to investigate the entire process.

After a 90-minute debate, assistant city manager Dan Buggy said the city has been notified of a number of legal actions in relation to the site and insisted the issue could not feature on the agenda.

TCA secretary Fergal Dennehy, said they are ready to call for ministerial intervention or a judicial review if the disposal goes ahead.

“There is something not right with this disposal. It’s weird and strange. Somebody needs to get behind this and find out exactly what’s going on with the process from start to finish,” he said. His father, former TD, John Dennehy, who served 28 years as a city councillor, also watched the meeting. “It stinks to high heaven. I’ve never seen anything handled the way this issue has been handled,” he said. “Several questions needs to be answered. I’m glad that councillors are seeking legal advice, not to be browbeaten.” And he rejected suggestions that his son is using the issue for electioneering purposes. “TCA has a track record of protecting Togher,” he said. “Three years ago we fought court cases to prevent an off licence going in within 50 yards of our two primary schools. “We’re willing to fight this one. We have fought — elections and no elections — and will fight this.”

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