COUNCILLOR Barry O’Neill has warned members of Donegal County Council that the local authority’s purchase of a €230,000 house outside Ballyshannon would be challenged in the courts.
Cllr O’Neill said that the decision by the council to buy the house for social housing amounted to five sections breaches of the County Development Plan. The Fine Gael councillor brought the issue before the council as an emergency motion but failed to get the purchase decision overturned.
County Manager Seamus Neely agreed to a review of the procedures involved in purchasing the house but concurred with Planner Denis Kelly’s assertion that planning procedures and policies were not breached.
“The property has been purchased and contracts exchanged - I cannot give any commitments here. We will review what we have done. I have not indicated what I will or will not do - but will review it,” Mr Neely added.
Cllr O’Neill insisted that the Council’s Consultative Travellers Committee had not decided to purchase the house as it did not have the powers to do so.
Cllr O’Neill insisted the purchase of the house at Parkhill would be “a first for Donegal County Council, introducing social housing into rural areas”.
Cllr Sean McEniff congratulated Cllr O’Neill on “the amount of research he had done”.
“I am very disappointed there was no consultation with members about this (purchase of the house),” he added.
Mayor Frank McBrearty, who is a member of the Consultative Travellers Committee, pointed out that the issue of the purchase of the house “had been brought to my attention for over a year on that committee”.
“The house was signed, sealed and delivered before I heard about it,” Cllr McEniff insisted.
Cllr O’Neill insisted his emergency motion was about planning.
“I never mentioned the word Traveller. I asked for a debate on social hosing in rural localities. The only mention of Travellers was the man sitting next to you [Cllr McEniff],” Cllr O’Neill told Cllr Ciaran Brogan.
Cllr John Campbell told the meeting the purchase of the house was discussed at a meeting in April of last year at a workshop and was “was allocated on a needs basis”.
“I know the council looked at this property before, when the price was higher. It is still over the limit but was approved by the Department of the Environment,” Cllr Campbell added.
Cllr Ciaran Brogan said the issue could be discussed at the February meeting of the Consultative Travellers Committee.
Mayor McBrearty voiced the opinion that “it will end up in a different forum”.