Friday 15 December 2017

CEO says time to draw line under Anne St buildings saga

The site, which now houses the Department of Social Protection and the Revenue.
The site, which now houses the Department of Social Protection and the Revenue.

AN END was brought to the saga involving the assembling of a Wexford town site, which now houses the Department of Social Protection and the Revenue Commissioners office, in the 1980s and 1990s, at the meeting when Wexford County Council CEO Tom Enright said the body could do no more on the matter, having devoted hundreds of man hours to resolving the issue.

Cllr Willie Fitzharris had a motion calling for a discussion with the group of affected parties with a view to resolving unanswered questions, but he withdrew it. Cllr Fitzharris said: 'Unfortunately they didn't respond before the date agreed at the last meeting. There may be another opportunity to put this to bed in some forum.'

Cllr Deirdre Wadding said there were issues with the assembling of the site on Anne Street, adding that enquiries were ongoing about where the fault lies. She said if someone was directly affected the matter could be discussed. She said she went through the files with one of the parties, adding that having reviewed them she feels there is an issue. Cllr Wadding sought a further meeting.

Director of Services for Economic Development Tony Larkin said: 'This is not a court of law and you are proceeding like it is a court, teasing out any anomalies you might think are there.'

Cllr Mary Farrell supported Cllr Wadding in her request for a meeting. Cllr Oisin O'Connell said: 'I do appreciate that there was a lot of work put into a report. I have expressed a personal opinion that the maximum amount of information was released. I'm not sure how much more we can do as councillors. There is a level of complexity here which is beyond my personal capacity and maybe beyond our colleagues' capabilities to investigate. Given there is a crazy quilt of overlapping titles here.'

Cllr Robbie Ireton said he was objecting to any further discussion on the matter.

'This has gone on and on. The documents have come back with a very clear understanding of what happened in Wexford Borough Council at the time. I'm sick to death of it; it's dragging on and it will never reach a conclusion.'

Cllr Davy Hynes said he supported Cllr Fitzharris's motion, adding that the local authority needed to be seen to be totally transparent on the matter. 'I know things were said that shouldn't have been said. I think we should return to where we were and finish this otherwise it will hang in the air.'

Cllr Ger Carthy said: 'Is there no other forum in which this can be brought up. I was elected to represent the people of the county. We have social housing and other issues to deal with. This has been aired here three times in the last three months.'

Cllr Keith Doyle said the council can't spend time looking into second and third party allegations, suggesting that the courts are the proper forum.

'It's as clear as mud and so are the questions,' he commented.

Cllr Willie Kavanagh said the matter was being raised in the Dáil over the following days, while Cllr Michael Sheehan said the council had taken it as far as it could.

Mr Larkin said there was no legal obligation for the council to look into it. 'The matter stretches back 25 years but some members were concerned and wanted to look into it.'

He said he met the concerned parties for six hours over the course of some meetings and read three submissions.

'I have tried as honestly as possible and I approached it absolutely straight-bat and if wrongdoing occurred I wasn't going to hide it but the actual matter the group is complaining of is very amorphous and it's very difficult to get a handle on what occurred.'

Mr Larkin said he has checked all of the legal and corporate files going back to the 1980s, adding that he found that the evidence points in the exact opposite direction.

'This is a complex issue as all property in Wexford town is complex as it goes back to the leases in the 1700s. I looked at whether or not the council abused it powers, if anyone was paid who shouldn't have been paid and if anyone was compensated who shouldn't have been. All I can say is what the records indicate and the land was acquired in two blocks by agreement.'

Mr Larkin said he found no evidence of corruption.

'This thing remained perfectly settled for 20 years and these concerns only arose over the past two to three years. We are in the middle of a very similar process with the OPW over the courthouse and the garda station in Wexford. I am confident I have answered all of the questions. We have released hundreds of documents and I have issued a 26 page report on this. I believe the council has discharged its obligations for transparency. Hundreds of hours of work was involved. I am disappointed the group finds it wanting but they announced that the report was biased before I even started writing it.'

He said reputational damage is being done to the council every time the matter is brought up, adding that if councillors who are familiar with the case can't grasp its complexities, how will the man on the street.

CEO Tom Enright said: 'This is not the type of issue the council should be discussing on an ongoing basis. We don't deal with innuendo or hearsay. We deal with facts. A huge amount of work has been done over the last few months. This (case) goes back a quarter of a century. Why did it take that much time to come forward with it? If someone was cheated or the subject of wrongdoing, why wasn't it raised before? This has come to a stage where we have to draw a line under it. If there are people out there who feel there is more evidence of wrongdoing nobody came forward by the due date. If anyone has an issue here they should contact our solicitors with their evidence.'

Chairman Cllr Paddy Kavanagh said anyone with any issues can contact Mr Larkin of Mr Enright.

The members agreed by majority to his proposal.

Wexford People

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