13 January 2021
By Tom Collins
Cork East TD and member of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Children, Equality and Disability, Seán Sherlock has called on the Government and the Minister for Housing to examine using Ministerial directives under the Planning Act to halt any developments on Mother & Baby Homes like Bessborough and elsewhere, and examine what other statutory powers may be available to act.
Deputy Sherlock said:
“There are currently two planning applications active on the Bessborough site, causing great distress to survivors. This development process should now be halted.
“Given the publication of the Mother and Baby Homes Commission report yesterday, and the sheer scale of the hurt and pain experienced by women and children, the Minister for Housing must now use his own powers to protect the lands from development. He can do this by issuing guidelines under Section 28 of the Planning Act. The government must also examine what other statutory powers are available to allow it to act.
“Survivors need time to understand what the report means for them. They should not have the fear of development on contested lands hanging over them also. The Taoiseach and the Minister for Children have expressed concern about this development. That concern must be given weight through [a] Ministerial directive.
“There must be a full examination of the grounds and I understand this will be covered by legislation covering Tuam and other sites including Bessborough. In the meantime planning and development should be halted and I would call on the Minister to use his powers to achieve that.”
Section 28 of the 2000 Planning Act.
The Minister may, at any time, issue guidelines to planning authorities regarding any of their functions under this Act and planning authorities shall have regard to those guidelines in the performance of their functions.
(2) Where applicable, the Board shall have regard to any guidelines issued to planning authorities under subsection (1) in the performance of its functions.
(3) Any planning guidelines made by the Minister and any general policy directives issued under section 7 of the Act of 1982 prior to the commencement of this Part and still in force immediately before such commencement shall be deemed to be guidelines under this section.
(4) The Minister may revoke or amend guidelines issued under this section.
(5) The Minister shall cause a copy of any guidelines issued under this section and of any amendment or revocation of those guidelines to be laid before each House of the Oireachtas.
(6) A planning authority shall make available for inspection by members of the public any guidelines issued to it under this section.
(7) The Minister shall publish or cause to be published, in such manner as he or she considers appropriate, guidelines issued under this section.