An article was published in The Southern Star on Saturday July 14th, 2012, in which Cork South West Fianna Fáil Senator, Denis O’Donovan, launched an all-out attack on An Taisce in a speech in Seanad Éireann.

An Taisce has issued the following statement in response to that article.

In the article, Senator O’Donovan was quoted stating that An Taisce ‘gets mandatory notice of every rural planning application in Ireland.’ This is not factually correct. An Taisce is sent a copy of a planning application where adverse impacts may arise in respect of water quality, human health, scenic landscape, endangered wildlife and a limited number of related grounds as set out in legislation.

Following this, An Taisce only appeals the decision of a local council to An Bord Pleanála, the national appeals board, where water quality, human health, scenic landscape or endangered wildlife are at risk – or where the proposal breaches the council's own development plan.

Nationally, less than 7% of planning applications are referred to An Taisce by councils and, of the applications referred, An Taisce appeals less than half of one per cent of council decisions to An Bord Pleánala. Of the appeals made by An Taisce to An Bord Pleanála (which number no more than 200 per year), the national appeals board upholds 80%.

Senator O’Donovan is further quoted as stating that An Taisce ‘challenge[d] the autonomy of Cork County Council and its manager in respect of that organisation’s policy on one-off housing’ and that Cork County Manager, Martin Ó Riordain, ‘unusually made a public statement in disgust and disdain for what An Taisce is trying to do in respect of rural housing.’

Again, the above statements are factually incorrect. An Taisce lodged a complaint in respect of Cork County Council’s use of a ‘liaison officer’ for certain planning applications on the grounds that it has no basis in law. Contrary to the contentions made by Senator O’Donovan, the matter remains under investigation. Senator O’Donovan further stated that ‘An Taisce was as silent as a lamb’ when significant abuses of the planning systems were ongoing, such as the mass rezoning of lands which resulted in so-called ‘Ghost Estates’. Once more this is factually incorrect.

In 1995 An Taisce member Michael Smith was the co-sponsor of a reward for information on corrupt land rezoning. The information which came to light (on foot of the offer of a reward, although the reward was never actually claimed) pressured the then Government into setting up the Mahon Tribunal. Mr Smith later went on to become Chair of An Taisce.

The organisation’s role in exposing the systemic corruption reaching the highest levels of government, including a number of former colleagues of Senator O’Donovan, is detailed further in An Taisce’s recent report, State of the Nation: A Review of the Irish Planning System 2000 – 2011. The record shows that An Taisce has been to the fore in exposing bad planning and zoning, contrary to the claims made by the Senator.

An Taisce is an independent charity and meets all of its legislative requirements. An Taisce’s education programmes such as the Green Schools Programme (in which 3,600 primary, secondary and special schools throughout Ireland partake), the Blue Flag awards, Irish Businesses Against Litter, the Green Home scheme are considered leaders in the European context.

An Taisce’s advocacy work in the areas of planning and natural environmental is done primarily by unpaid volunteers. An Taisce is an open organisation and any person who wishes to help An Taisce protect and enhance and our natural and built environment is welcome to join and become involved. An Taisce’s main contact email addresses for advocacy work are [email protected] and [email protected]