Above-An Al-Qaeda headquarters in Dublin's inner city.?
An Taisce criticised for confidential planning objections
An Taisce has been described as Ireland only secret society that receives State recognition.
Making the claim yesterday at the adjourned June (2006) meeting of Clare County Council, councillor PJ Kelly (Fianna Fail) said: " An Taisce doesn't release the identity of its members and they could come from the ranks of al-Qaeda, MI5, the CIA or even our own Special Branch. We just don't know."
Arising from Government legislation, An Taisce can lodge objections against one-off homes and other developments and the contents of the objection remain confidential until planning authorities have made decisions in the cases.
Mr Kelly said the current system "goes against any principle of natural justice as applicants can't respond to any of the points raised in the objections"
Tabling a motion that objections received from An Taisce be made available to the public, Mr Kelly said: " An Taisce is anti-rural and anti anything outside of the Pale." I have no problems with objections. If an ordinary person lodges an objection, the applicant can see the objection on file. (and get a bullet delivered in the next post..)
"However, An Taisce has special status and applicants cannot see [its] objections against developments. There is no provision in statute to ensure that they remain confidential, the regulations only state that an An Taisce submission can be regarded as a report.
"Unless the council receives legal advice stating that it cannot release An Taisce objections prior to planning decisions being made, I am calling on the council to make public An Taisce objections.
Mr Kelly's call received support from his colleagues.
Councillor Joe Arkins (Fine Gael) said: "It is only reasonable that An Taisce objections be made available in the interest of transparency and fair play."
Green Party councillor Brian Meaney also supported Mr Kelly's motion: "It would be far more preferable if the reports by An Taisce were made known to applicants and the general public."
Councillor Martin Lafferty asked county manager Alec Fleming how many planning applications had been refused as a result of An Taisce objections. (no reply)
A spokeswoman for the Clare Association of An Taisce said last night that she was surprised by Mr Kelly's remarks. She confirmed that An Taisce in Clare made 852 submissions last year on planning matters - in 2005, the council received 2,491 planning applications.
"While we made 852 submissions, we would object to very few applications each year. We are not an objecting machine. For example, I am in the process of making 30 submissions and only two are objections.
"We have no power, but we are a necessary watchdog for the public."
The spokeswoman said that she would object to the contents of An Taisce submissions being made public. "This would result in our private lives being imposed upon by people lobbying in relation to the submissions."
She added that the identity of An Taisce members had legal protection and that they should not be released.
The council's director for planning, Bernadette Kinsella, said: "Where we refer planning files to An Taisce in their role as a prescribed body, their reports are not available.
"However, when An Taiscemakes a submission or objection, they are available for the public to view."
The Irish countryside is full of these "gombeen man" councillors.They are more numerous there than hedgehogs.They are in the main, "cute hoor" Fianna Failers, with a generous sprinkling of Fine Gael "Blueshirts".They are neanderthal.They are indigenous to the remote island of Ireland. Yet many of them still thrive there to this day in that unique environment on the western fringes of Europe..