Limerick Minister’s Dáil statement raises more questions

Minister of State Niall Collins making his statement in the Dáil last week.

A DÁIL statement from Limerick Minister of State Niall Collins in the wake of the controversy around the planning application for his family home in Patrickswell has left a number of unanswered questions.

These include a lack of clarity around a planning notice under the name “Niall O’Connor” that was referenced in the fall-out from the 2001 application.

It also remains to be explained why Mr Collins’ planning application cites a desire to move out of his parents’ home as the reason for building the new property.

Minister Collins’ explanation in the Dáil last night stated that he wished to move to the Patrickswell area to “move closer to my parents … to help them and to support them in any way I could”.

It was reported by the Limerick Post earlier this week that the Fianna Fáil TD’s 2001 planning application – signed and submitted on his behalf by architectural technician John Redmond – contained a number of inconsistencies. These included a claim, published by investigative news website The Ditch, that a planning notice for the proposed site was published under the name “Niall O’Connor”.

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Questions were also raised about the application’s listing of “Red House Hill, Patrickswell” (Mr Collins’ parents’ address) as his then residence, despite allegations by The Ditch – confirmed last night by Mr Collins in the Dáil – that he owned a property in Dooradoyle at the time, which he purchased with his wife in 1999.

Addressing the week-long controversy in the Dáil last night, Minister Collins reasserted his claim that he is “entirely satisfied” that his 2001 planning application was handled correctly and factually and that it met all terms of Limerick County Council criteria in place at the time.

Minister Collins told members of the Dáil that he had only learned for the first time this week of a planning notice published in the Limerick Leader under the name “Niall O’Connor”.

“I was not aware of this advertisement before this week,” he told the chamber.

“The correct and only advertisement that I authorised at any time was that published in the Limerick Leader on 12 May 2001.

“It is the only advertisement on the planning file at Limerick City and County Council and is clearly in my name, Niall Collins.

“All of this is available for inspection by anyone on the planning file at Limerick City and County Council.”

However, the same 2001 planning application, seen by the Limerick Post, lists the Limerick Leader edition of April 28, 2001, as the “newspaper in which public notice [of the application] was published”, despite the May 12 advertisement being the one attached to the application.

The April 28, 2001 notice published in the Limerick Leader lists a “Niall O’Connor” of “Cloughkeating, Patrickswell, Co Limerick” as the applicant.

The Minister also said that his intentions for building his Patrickswell home arose from a wish to “move closer to my parents, who were advancing in age, to be near to them, to help them, and to support them in any way I could”.

This is despite the 22-year-old planning application, available for inspection at the Limerick City and County Council offices, stating that “the applicant [Mr Collins] proposes to build his own family home and move out of his parents house”.

The application also describes Mr Collins, in two separate sections, as living in his parents’ home in Red House Hill between “1971 and 2001” and for “30 years”, which runs counter to his Dáil statement that he lived there for “some 28 years” before relocating to his then Dooradoyle home – purchased in 1999.

Mr Collins maintained in his Dáil explanation that it was “immaterial” whether or not his Dooradoyle home was listed on the application.

“The matter of whether I owned a house with my wife near Limerick City … was not an issue of consideration or policy at the time under that County Development Plan and whether I had stated that or not was immaterial to the planning adjudication process 23 years ago,” he said.

Speaking to the Limerick Post today, MEP for Ireland South Billy Kelleher defended his Fianna Fáil colleague, saying that he felt Minister Collins had brought the issue to “finality” with last night’s statement.

“I read the Dáil statement and he dealt with it comprehensively,” the MEP said.

“He was compliant on his application. I think that’s the important point, so I very much welcome the statement because I think it brought it to finality.”