Clare County Council has said there was no official representation by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in the planning application of a proposed Co Clare wind farm that Donald Trump was unhappy with.
Speaking at a luncheon in Washington D.C. yesterday, Varadkar said that he inquired about the planning permission for the wind farm after he received a call from then businessman Trump.
Varadkar was Minister for Tourism and Sport at the time of the call and said yesterday that when he was informed Trump was phoning for him he thought it was “a joke”.
Trump had previously bought Doonbeg golf course and was concerned that the nearby wind farm would affect the visual amenity of the area.
The proposed wind farm consisted of nine electricity generating wind turbines with a hub height of up to 85 metres and a rotor diameter of up to 82 metres, giving an overall height of 126 metres.
The planning application for the wind farm was made by Clare Coastal Wind Power Ltd and it was refused by Clare County Council. An appeal to An Bord Pleanála was also refused.
In his comments yesterday evening, Varadkar said that he made contact with the council about the plan.
“So I endeavoured to do what I could do about it. I rang [Clare] County Council and inquired about the planning permission and subsequently, the planning permission was declined, and the wind farm was never built, thus the landscape being preserved,” Varadkar said .
Varadkar added that Trump “has kindly given me credit for that, although I think it would probably have been refused anyway”.
Clarifying Varadkar’s intervention, Clare County Council said last night that there was no recorded representation by the then minister.
“The planning application was received on 15 August 2014. All representations, objections and observations made in relation to this and all other planning applications are available to view on the planning file and the Clare County Council website,” the council said.
There is no representation by Leo Varadkar, the then Minister for Tourism and Sport, or any elected member on this planning file. The decision on 8 October 2014 by Clare County Council to refuse this planning application was subsequently appealed to An Bord Pleanála. Following consideration of the appeal, An Bord Pleanála upheld the decision by Clare County Council and refused permission for the proposed development.
A government spokesperson yesterday said that Doonbeg is a “significant tourism asset” and that it would be normal for the Minister for Tourism to keep abreast of such issues.
“It’s normal for ministers to seek information on planning applications when issues are raised by citizens, businesses or investors,” the spokesperson said.
“This matter has been mentioned publicly on very many occasions by the Taoiseach. I was not a court case of a judicial matter.”
After the planning permission for the wind farm was denied, Trump had tweeted that it was “great news”.
Speaking this morning on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland programme, Fianna Fáil Clare TD Timmy Dooley said that if Varadkar was interested the planning application he should have made made contact in writing.
He also expressed concern that a phonecall from a minister could put council officials “under pressure to deliver on the wishes of the minister”.
“We need clarity. We need to know why he didn’t make a written submission. We need to know who he spoke to, we need to know what he asked for. We need to know what he was told by the council official and I think we need to know were there any follow up calls,” Dooley said.
Speaking on the same programme, Fine Gael Senator Martin Conway, who is also from Clare, said that it is his understanding that Varadkar himself did not ring the council.
“I have been speaking to council officials, none of them can remember receiving a phone call from Leo Varadkar,” Conway said.
“Furthermore, I have been talking to people in Leo Varadkar’s office who were working with him at the time and they are absolutely clear that not make a call. That basically someone in his office made an inquiry, in terms of a status update.”
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