Sunday 20 October 2019

Report finds 'no irregularities' into Anne St site acquisition

The site at Anne Street.
The site at Anne Street.

By Amy Lewis

Director of Services Tony Larkin presented a report on the Anne Street files to the members, concluding that no irregularities on the part of Wexford Corporation had been found.

Mr Larkin began by outlining the context for the review. In recent times, a number of queries were raised by persons alleging irregularities concerning the acquisition of land in Anne Street for the offices of the Department of Social Protection and the Revenue Commissioners in the 1990s. The issue was raised in the Dail by Deputy Joe Higgins. When the matter was brought to Wexford, Cllr Deirdre Wadding called for transparency in the matter and an investigation in the interests of the council. It was agreed that members of the council could inspect the files and bring any concerns to Mr Larkin.

Mr Larkin told the chamber last week that he met with a concerned group on two separate occasions to discuss their worries. The review outlined their complaint:

'The Group of effected parties say that Wexford Borough Council by the manner in which they went about the assembling of the site for the new government offices in Anne Street, Wexford caused them to be misinformed, caused them to make incorrect commercial business decisions to their financial detriment and made them party to an irregular record of events that impacts on their good name and reputation.'

In following up these complaints, Mr Larkin relied on file records of the Council, held by MJ O'Connor and Co Solicitors and planning and land registry records. All of this information was compiled into the report presented at last week's meeting.

In the report conclusion, Mr Larkin said that he found the written record on file regarding the land acquisition was 'quite comprehensive' and it was possible to develop a full understanding of these complex transactions.'

'I looked to see if the Corporation had acted outside of its powers. I found no evidence to say it did,' explained Mr Larkin at the meeting. 'I was also asked whether anyone was paid compensation as part of the process. Only three parties were and these were the Book Centre in Waterford, George and Marjorie Murphy and the Hylands, who were sold a site on Trinity Street.'

In his report, Mr Larkin said that the only other party involved was Mr Ray Corish, who he found to be nothing but supportive and constructive in the process and who was not compensated in any way.

'I was also asked if anyone was unfairly denied compensation and whether anyone's interests were adversely affected. I haven't managed to find any third party to say that this is true,' he told the meeting.

Mr Larkin said that he had tried to answer all of the questions raised in the report.

Several of the councillors, including Cllr Malcolm Byrne, Cllr Willie Fitzharris and Cllr Oisin O'Connell, asked for some time to review the report, saying that they had only received it thirty minutes before the meeting.

However, Cllr Deirdre Wadding threw a spanner in the works when she called for the report not to be released, saying that new information had just been brought to her attention that could be useful.

'In the interest of having a comprehensive report, I suggest we have one more meeting on this,' she said, adding that she felt they should hand back the reports.

'How is it that the very day you have new information, it is going to do away with what we have here?' said Cllr Kavanagh. 'I suggest you go away and read the report and if anyone has any concerns, they can request a meeting with Tony.'

Mr Larkin said that report was 'difficult' to put together, adding that he had been the victim of several personal attacks while compiling it.

'I am not amending it,' he said. 'But I am happy to look at the report that Cllr Wadding has.'

'There doesn't appear to be reason for further investigation. The Council has been asked to examine records and it has done so.'

Mr Larkin said that he was happy for the report to be guarded as the final report at this point in time but suggested that, between now and October 28, councillors come to him with any concerns or queries.

'The additional queries can be included in a revised report,' he said.

Cllr Deirdre Wadding was quickly shut down by Cllr Paddy Kavanagh when she called for the report not to be released into the public domain.

'That is it. It is over!' he said.

Wexford People

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