*Deputy Violet-Anne Wynne (IND). Photograph: John Mangan
CLARE TD, Violet-Anne Wynne (IND) has criticised a Junior Minister in the Dáil for the ‘O’Donnell Directive’ which has seen sweeping changes made to the Clare County Development Plan.
Following a special meeting of Clare County Council last week, Deputy Wynne raised the concerns of elected members in Dáil Éireann.
She stated, “The assembled members called me and my fellow Oireachtas colleagues from Clare before them to discuss what they say is the shameful ministerial direction given by the Minister of State, Deputy O’Donnell, which cut the knees out from under our new county development plan.
“It was an interesting meeting where councillors from all parties and none, including the parties of the Minister of State, Deputy O’Donnell and of the Minister, Deputy Darragh O’Brien, voiced their disdain and disgust at the heavy-handed decision that will serve to block planning permission across large swathes of County Clare”.
Actions of the Junior Minister, Kieran O’Donnell (FG) saw him “come along with his red pen and effectively erase some of the most significant provisions in the plan,” she said.
Deputy Wynne said an increasing amount of people in Clare are blocked from building their “forever homes on their own land” by the Government. “It is going after rural Ireland and making it next to impossible to get the planning permission to build a house on one’s own land. The Minister of State says the Government is committed to Housing for All. Clare says ‘Don’t make us laugh’.
“Due to the ministerial order, around 113 km of national roads in County Clare are now no longer viable sites for new house building. Some 105 of those are in the West Clare Municipal District. This is yet another example of anti-rural policy by this Government, which seems adamant about starving communities in my constituency of basic services and now blocking people from building their own house on their own land. In the words of the councillors, it is now not the Clare County Development Plan but instead is the plan of the Office of the Planning Regulator, OPR,” she added.
Beginning her address, the Clare TD noted, “I want to start by acknowledging the little bit of history being made right now, as this is the first time this new slot for non-aligned Independents is being used. I thank the Business Committee, the Independent Group, the Labour Party, the Social Democrats, and Solidarity-People Before Profit, who generously lent me time over the last year. It was significant to my constituents that I found the time to raise issues on their behalf and for that I was most grateful”.
It led to her highlight that there is diminishing power for elected representatives at a local and national level. “In principle, I welcome this legislation which seeks to put more power in the hands of people who are duly elected by the public to serve them, and out of the hands of the unelected executives or Ministers outside of the county. Any strides that can be made towards redirecting some of the executive powers over an area back into the hands of elected officials should be embraced fully by this House.
“Giving the people of Limerick more of a say into how their local authority is run and how funds are directed and spent is incredibly significant and should be celebrated. As Limerick is our nearest neighbour, I strongly welcome the decision to include the chief executive of my local authority, Clare County Council, on many of the committees that the directly elected mayor will chair. I hope that, as this Bill moves through this House and the Seanad, we will also see a seat given to the cathaoirleach of Clare County Council on these committees. It is so important that we respect our elected members in local authorities and respect the decision-making power that they have and the work that they do. The mandate they are given by being duly elected by the people is significant. This place at the table should not be underestimated. I wish the prospective candidates who are currently considering this role the very best”.