There were farcical scenes and angry exchanges at yesterday’s monthly meeting of Mayo County Council between councillors Frank Durcan and Henry Kenny over a planning application made by Cllr Kenny’s brother-in-law in 2004.
The two men exchanged harsh words across the chamber floor with Cllr Kenny telling Cllr Durcan that he was a ‘disgrace’ and at one point told him to ‘shut up’.
The incident arose when Cllr Durcan questioned how Tim Hastings Ltd was granted planning permission to build a new garage along the N5 outside Westport in 2004, five months after it had been refused planning permission for the same project at the same location.
Tim Hastings is the brother-in-law of Cllr Kenny and the Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Cllr Durcan made reference to this in the chamber.
“We are talking about the Taoiseach’s brother-in-law and Cllr Kenny’s brother-in-law and I want to know what happened in the five months to change the mind of the County Manager,” he said.
At this stage Cllr Kenny stood to his feet and angrily pointed at Cllr Durcan and called on him to prove any allegations he was making.
“Don’t involve me in that sir, I have listened long enough to this. Prove it,” he said before later adding, “You are scandalising everyone, prove it in court.”
Cllr Durcan said that he had all the documents in front of him to prove it, which prompted Cllr Kenny to tell him to ‘shut up about it then’.
Cllr Durcan concluded the discussion by stating that he wanted to know why the County Manager had changed his mind in the intervening five months and that someone will have to have answers ‘either in this forum or in some other forum, I am not going to rest’.
The Independent Castlebar based councillor brought up the issue of planning when the item to consider the Draft Programme for the Preparation of the Development Plans 2012-2015 appeared on the agenda.
Cllr Durcan said that it was a waste of money preparing such plans and added that the Local Development Act, 1963 had ‘brought more corruption to the county than the Mafia brought to Italy, Sicily, New York and Chicago’.
He then raised the matter of the planning history for the site where the current Tim Hastings Ltd garage is now located. He stated in 2004, the then County Manager Des Mahon refused planning permission to Tim Hastings for a garage on the grounds that access to the N5 would be contrary to the County Development Plan.
“Five months afterwards permission was granted,” he told the Council meeting. “We have now created a black spot where they never had one before. I want to know what happened and what changed the County Manager’s mind.”
During his address to the chamber, there were farcical scenes when Cllr Durcan refused to take his seat after going over his allocated three minute speaking time and a number of councillors tried to drown Cllr Durcan out by talking over him on other items.
In July 2004, an application by Tim Hastings Ltd to construct new motor showrooms and a garage was refused by Mayo County Council after the NRA recommended refusal on the ground of access to the N5.
A new application was received by Mayo County Council on August 12, 2004 for a similar application at the same site at Sheean, Westport. Mr Iain Douglas Senior Planner for Mayo County Council recommended granting permission on the grounds the development was strategic as it was the one of only two Volkswagen dealerships in the county and is the only Mercedes dealership in the county. Permission was granted for the application on December 15, 2004.
The application was not appealed to An Bord Pleanála by the NRA at the time and in a letter seen by The Mayo News in August 2006, the NRA stated they did not appeal the decision to ABP because of ‘staffing issues’ over the Christmas period.
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