An Bord Pleanála: Report into alleged conflicts of interest referred to DPP and Gardaí

An Bord Pleanála: Report into alleged conflicts of interest referred to DPP and Gardaí

Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien referred the report, completed by Mr Remy Farrell SC, to the authorities, on the advice of the Attorney General.

A report into allegations of conflicts of interest regarding former deputy chair of An Bord Pleanála Paul Hyde has been referred to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), An Garda Síochana and the Standards in Public Office (SIPO).

Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien referred the report, completed by Mr Remy Farrell SC, to the authorities, on the advice of the Attorney General.

In a statement released this evening, the Department of Housing said it “is now a matter for the Director of Public Prosecutions as to whether a criminal prosecution should be undertaken arising from the findings of the report.” 

“It would be inappropriate for the Minister to comment further on this specific matter.”

“The Minister has also sought the views of the DPP in relation to the publication of the report having regard to the possibility of a prosecution.” 

Mr Hyde stepped back from his duties at An Bord Pleanála “without prejudice” on May 9, only to resign from the board entirely on July 8. He has always denied any impropriety on his part.

Mr O’Brien is also awaiting the conclusion of a separate internal report from a Senior Management Team within An Bord Pleanála, requested by Mr Dave Walsh, chairperson of An Bord Pleanála.

Paul Hyde
Paul Hyde

“It is expected that this internal report will examine further allegations of wrongdoing," the statement added. 

“Minister O’Brien will decide on any further course of action, including possible legislative amendments, following consideration of this report.” 

Separately, Mr O’Brien has set out a series of actions to be undertaken:

  • An independent organisational review of An Bord Pleanála will be carried out by the Office of the Planning Regulator (OPR).
  • Mr O’Brien also sanctioned a further 24 posts for An Bord Pleanála under the 2021-2022 Workforce Plan which are currently being recruited and intends to approve a further substantial increase in staffing for An Bord Pleanála shortly to “ensure it is fully equipped to meet the demands of our planning system.”
  • The current appointment process will be overhauled and the process for nominations in place at the moment will cease.

The minister will bring a plan to Cabinet in the coming weeks which will outline a new appointments process for members of An Bord Pleanála underpinned by new legislation.

Mr O’Brien said: “An Bord Pleanála stands at the apex of our planning system and plays a crucial role as the final arbiter of many planning applications. In this light, I treat any allegations of inappropriate actions or behaviour by its members with the utmost seriousness."

"The public must have trust in the impartiality and integrity of our planning system if it is to function effectively in facilitating sustainable development."

He added: "I do not underestimate the work undertaken by the staff of An Bord Pleanála which is increasing as we work to meet our targets set out in Housing for All and other major infrastructure being provided under the National Development Plan." 

"The staff of ABP work extremely hard in challenging conditions and I have already sanctioned a further 24 posts for ABP which are currently being recruited." 

"I intend to approve a further substantial increase in staffing resources for ABP shortly to ensure it is fully equipped to meet the demands of our planning system, including new functions it will take on as part of new marine planning arrangements." 

"These additional staff members will be hired in tandem with the recommended organisational reforms set out by the OPR review to create a fully fit-for-purpose body, including any legislative changes required to achieve this aim."

"Maintaining trust and confidence in our planning system is of the utmost importance and the series of measures which I have outlined, and which will evolve, will ensure fundamental change for the benefit of our entire planning system while maintaining its full on-going operation."

"I believe it is important that the report be published as soon as possible given the vital public interest in this matter, I have asked the DPP for her views on whether there are any parts of the report which should not be published at this time while the possibility of a criminal prosecution is under consideration. I will await her views before publishing the report." 

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