Moore Street Traders Offered Public Funds to drop Objections to Dublin Central Plan - T.D.
Aengus Ó Snodaigh raised the issue in the Dáil during An Bord Pleanála debate
In April 2021, before the planning applications were lodged, Dublin City council officials contacted Moore Street stall holders with an offer of a total of €1.5 million over four years as compensation for inconvenience caused by the works. With associated trading and public representative associations campaigning to save their local businesses, it was agreed that developer Hammerson was to pay €1million, the City Council €200,000 while the Department of would pay the remainder.
Last September 15th in the Dáil, during a debate concerning the controversy facing the national planning board, An Bord Pleanála. Aengus Ó Snodaigh, TD, stated that the combined payments were tied to three conditions, thus making it a bribe.
Moore Street businesses say this compensation offer from a (public) body and a body other than the developer “undermines the democratic process”. Sources close to the deal say it’s “very strange for a council to be involved in a joint offer with a developer.”
Dublin Central Planning Application
The Dublin Central office and retail development involves three bundled applications submitted to Dublin City Council on the 9th November 2021 and the 29th April 2022. These are: 2862/21, 2861/21, 2863/21.
In order for the development to proceed, much of Moore Street will have to be pulled down, in fact Dublin City Council has had plans to demolish the remains of the terrace since 1996.
The current developer plans to turn the area into a massive shopping and office development with a proposal to build more than 2,200 offices, 210 hotel rooms, alongside just 94 apartments.
The position of the Moore Street traders and local businesses is that they would not be unable to survive the disruption caused by the construction and they have sought legal assistance and are objecting to the development.
An Bord Pleanála Planning Debate
Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh spoke at length on the Moore Street Planning Application, stating that board officials failed to grant an oral hearing with respect to the Moore Street development despite its importance to the city centre and the controversy surrounding the planning process from 2007 onwards.
“I know that some of those named An Bord Pleanála officials who are under scrutiny played a role in refusing to grant an oral hearing on three planning applications before them regarding Moore Street.”
Moore Street Payments
According to Mr Ó Snodaigh, “I know there were underhanded goings-on in relation to Moore Street in terms of the State, the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage officials and Dublin City Council officials lining up with the current owner of the site to offer a package for loss of earnings to the area's street traders. However, that €1.7 million was tied to three conditions, thus making it a bribe.”
Ó Snodaigh emphasised that a trader has stated that they received three offers: the first was €1 million; the second was €1.5 million with the final offer being €1.7 million., and that the figure quoted is not disputed.
Payments conditional upon commitment not to oppose development
The traders were also told to "give a commitment not to submit any planning objections to the applications that Hammerson was about to make late last year regarding that site. That is a bribe - there are no two ways about it - because it is conditional."
The payments were "conditional on them taking those actions. That is also gross interference in the planning process. It is gross interference in the legislative process given that the Minister of State, Deputy Noonan, had earlier indicated here in the Dáil that he would take his lead in relation to my Bill from the MSAG report. It is also interference in the function of the same Minister’s own advisory group."
Allegations about Moore Street
"I have to say, from a heritage perspective, shame on them. There is no more important site being earmarked for development at present than Moore Street, and I know the Minister has a specific interest in this. It is historically significant and of national and international importance, with legislation seeking its full protection before the Houses of the Oireachtas.
Many local authorities are opposing its destruction. A national monument would be interfered with. A historical building survey and assessment reports that the local planning authority have are not being considered by An Bord Pleanála because they were produced after the deadline. Yet, An Bord Pleanála refused an oral hearing."
Moore Street: a National Monument
Ó Snodaigh emphasised the following points:
1. Moore Street was a national monument,
2. The terrace held a retreating GPO garrison at the end of Easter week. This was where the last meeting of the 1916 Rising Military Council met and where the surrender was decided to avoid further loss of civilian life.
3. That there was an agenda to eradicate history. ‘However, there are some who would rather erase our history.’
4. That that those presiding on planning applications often are not independent and are developers and holders of development land.
5. That ‘given the scandals of the past in this city,’ in particular Wood Quay and Frascati House, ‘we need to be very careful with who is on An Bord Pleanála.’
"The biggest planning mistake in Irish history to date"
Last January 2022, two applications relating to the historic 1916 battleground site and neighbouring Henry Street were granted planning permission by Dublin City Council., (currently the subject of appeal to An Bord Pleanála). Local butcher Stephen Troy condemned the decision as “the biggest planning mistake in Irish history to date”.
Mr. Troy continued:
“Incredibly, the Department of Heritage and Housing and DCC are named as contributors to the fund to compensate Moore Street traders. This suggests that DCC are not only contributing but propping up the same compensatory fund to facilitate a private developer who would later apply for planning permission to DCC? “These actions completely undermine the democratic planning process. Yet they are contributing funds to get rid of a 300-year-old market steeped in history, culture and heritage throughout the ten-year construction phase. It is highly unlikely the market would ever return after a ten-year lapse.”
The Chairperson of the local business alliance further stated that the goal of the Department of Heritage is to conserve and manage Ireland’s unique heritage. The Moore street advisory group (MSAG) report (under the chairmanship of the Department) included key recommendations on the future of the area, including the way forward for the 1916 national monument at numbers 14-17 Moore Street (which the State owns), the Moore Street market, and the Hammerson plan for the site.
A City Council spokesperson said: “The matter of compensation for Street Traders is a recommendation of the cross party Moore St. Advisory Group. This recommendation is still being considered.” A spokesman for the Department of Housing said: “It should be stressed that any compensation paid by the Department / OPW would be solely in respect of works at the national monument buildings.”
In other words, according to the council, genuine efforts to resolve the situation are projected into wild allegations against parties concerned to resolve the matter. The problem is, if the allegations are correct, city council and department officials are acting against their own remit, to protect and preserve national heritage., in Moore and O'Connell streets and are acting as brokers in conjunction with the developer before the planning process had even commenced. It is also significant that the council spokesperson did not deny that an offer had been made.
1916 Cultural Quarter Bill
Meanwhile the 1916 Cultural Quarter Bill introduced by Sinn Fein TD Aengus O’Snodaigh last year which is aimed at preserving the historic area received unanimous backing in the Dail, but nevertheless remains at committee stage.
In the September 15th debate Deputy Ó Snodaigh emphasised another point about the proposed legislation:
1. 'The traders on the most recent ministerial Moore Street Advisory Group, MSAG, were being told to endorse the Dublin central vision of the Hammerson group, involving the destruction of much of the historic Moore Street site.’
2. The Moore St. traders were ‘specifically told to vote for a report to the Minister that also endorsed the same. They were instructed to issue a statement going back on their earlier support for the Ceathrú Chultúir 1916 Bill, my own Bill, which had unanimously passed First and Second Stages in the Dáil and is awaiting Committee Stage.’
Since Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh has raised this issue in the Oireachtas, there has been general silence, about this 'offer' by the developer and the state (using taxpayer funds), to a Government advisory group., itself set up with agreement by the Government in order to resolve the crisis caused by a development the current government openly supports.