O’Brien facing Opposition demands to explain nature of ‘further’ alleged wrongdoing in ABP

Social Democrats housing spokesman Cian O’Callaghan says it is not clear what is under examination within ABP and what is covered in the report by senior counsel Remy Farrell

Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien is facing Opposition demands to explain the nature of alleged wrongdoing in An Bord Pleanála (ABP) that is under scrutiny in an internal review

The allegations are separate to issues covered by a senior barrister’s report on former ABP deputy chairman Paul Hyde that Mr O’Brien has sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions. Mr Hyde has denied any wrongdoing. The affair centres on alleged conflicts of interest and alleged impropriety in his personal declarations to ABP.

The Minister has said an ongoing review by a senior management team within ABP of the Hyde case “will examine further allegations of wrongdoing” but has not said what exactly is at issue.

Social Democrats housing spokesman Cian O’Callaghan said Mr O’Brien “should be outlining” the allegations, adding that it was not clear what was under examination within ABP and what was covered in the report by senior counsel Remy Farrell.


“Which ones were done by Remy Farrell and which are ABP investigating themselves?” Mr O’Callaghan asked. “At the moment the public is in the dark on a lot of this, and if we’re going to have public confidence restored and these problems corrected and learned from we have to have as much information as possible.”

Asked for the Minister’s response, his spokeswoman said the review was being carried out by ABP. In New Ross Mr O’Brien told reporters the ABP report was imminent. “I expect that in the coming days I will receive that report, and I will decide then what further steps need to be taken.”

Mr O’Brien has ordered an overhaul of ABP in light of Mr Farrell’s 120-page report, which the Minister has not published pending guidance from DPP Catherine Pierse. “These are confidence-building measures but they need to be done,” Mr O’Brien said.

Asked whether ABP was damaged by the affair, he said it was. “Process and procedure does need to be looked at. There are elements within the report that raise doubt about that, and I want that dealt with. There is no question that damage has been done. That can be reversed certainly.”

After signalling change to the system of making political appointments to ABP’s board, the Minister said he will ask the Cabinet in September to approve “further changes” to the board’s structure. “I believe it’s crucially important that our planning authority operates with full integrity and also with the confidence and support of our public.”

ABP said “no comment” when asked whether it acknowledged damage to the institution as a result of the affair.

Asked whether the “further allegations” related to Mr Hyde or any other individuals, ABP said “they are very general and cover a wide spectrum of issues”.

Terms of reference for the ABP review cover compliance with procedures for avoiding potential conflicts. It is also examining whether concerns arise over the allocation of planning files. Another question was whether there are “any identifiable trends and/or patterns of decisions”.

Mr O’Callaghan said it was “neither tenable nor appropriate for ABP to investigate itself”. But ABP insisted it was not correct to cast the review as an investigation, saying the management personnel involved had no direct role in planning.

“ABP considers that it is entirely appropriate that it be able to conduct its own examination of issues raised in addition to and aside from any external examinations or investigations by others.”

Arthur Beesley

Arthur Beesley

Arthur Beesley is Current Affairs Editor of The Irish Times