A survey by the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government revealed that few local authorities had adequate resources or systems in place for audit, Fine Gael Deputy John Deasy told the Dáil. This should be of grave concern, given the economic incentives for corruption created by Ireland’s planning system.
Speaking on a new Electoral Bill which limits spending in local elections, he said the report stated that the regulation of urban planning continues to provide an artificial scarcity value on development land. For example, the value of agricultural land increases exponentially when rezoned by local government for residential and commercial purposes. According to the report, this system created an added incentive for corrupt transactions between developers and local officials and representatives.
“However, a combination of factors rendered and continues to render local government highly vulnerable to corruption and fraud,” he said. “I agree with that analysis and I know it to be true.”
He said the Minister indicated he planned to publish legislation this year which will put an end to opportunistic rezoning of land by county councillors.
“We need to start with zoning procedures in local authorities by mandating that all communications to officials and public representatives by individuals who have a beneficial or business interest be reported, disclosed and made public under law,” he added.
If developers thought for one moment that contacts with councillors or officials would be noted on the public record, they would think twice about making any such contacts, he said.
“If we are to reform governmental procedures and establish a system that rejects the culture of the golden circle and the wink and nod, we must reform and transform the mentality and manner with which business is transacted with government,” he said. “The place to start is with the entity that is most vulnerable to political influence and patronage, namely, local government.”
O’Shea queries change in command
The Defence Forces contribution is similar in size and nature to Ireland’s existing contribution in Chad since command of the mission transferred from the EU to the UN on March 15, Minister Willie O’Dea told Labour Spokesman Brian O’Shea.
Speaking during Question Time, the Minister said the nature of the Irish battalion’s duties with MINURCAT will be similar to its duties with EUFOR, which include, inter alia, short and long-range patrolling, situational awareness and providing an overall security and deterrent presence within its area of operations.
“The International Criminal Court, ICC, issued a warrant on 4 March 2009 for the arrest of Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir, president of Sudan, for war crimes and crimes against humanity,” he said. “This is the first warrant of arrest ever issued for a sitting Head of State by the International Criminal Court. Since its issue, there are fears the Sudanese reaction against the international community could include giving fresh support to Chadian rebel groups. Any such actions could have serious consequences for the large refugee population in eastern Chad, many of whom have fled from the conflict in Darfur.”
Deputy O’Shea said he was relieved to hear the overall threat assessment was medium.
“That is an encouraging development but, as the situation needs to be kept under constant review, there may be changes to this status.”
Coffey condemns callous murders
The recent callous murders in Northern Ireland were an affront to the peace process, the political system and the civilisation of our country, Waterford Senator Paudie Coffey told the Upper House.
Speaking on the Order of Business, he said was sure the perpetrators had not carried out these acts on behalf of any right-minded person in this country or in Northern Ireland. They certainly had no mandate to do what they did.
“Members should again acknowledge the great work that communities and political parties, both North and South, have done to achieve the peace process,” he said. “Moreover, the work they continue to do on a daily basis should never be underestimated and Members on this side of the House never do so.”
Members also must remind themselves, he said, of and acknowledge the great work of the men and women who work on the front lines in both Northern Ireland and southern Ireland to keep the peace and protect ordinary civilians.
“I refer to the Garda Síochána, the PSNI, the Irish Army and the British army,” he said. “It is correct that all political parties should condemn these murders because that is the political message Members must send out. They should not be protected or harboured in any way and I ask the Leader to send such a message from Seanad Éireann to these criminal thugs, which is all they are.”