Moving a Dáil Topical debate last week, the Rural Independent Group again demanded the government to undertake a full independent financial review of all taxpayer funding to An Taisce and to end the prescribed body designation the organisation enjoys under the planning Acts.
Speaking today, the Leader of the Rural Independent Group, Deputy Mattie Mc Grath stated:
“My colleagues and I in the Rural Independent Group, have established that An Taisce will receive at least €4.5 million of taxpayer funding this year. In fact, a review of the organisation’s financial statements shows taxpayer receipts of more than €30 million over the last decade alone.”
“We acknowledge that the organisation is involved in some excellent work, in areas such as the Green Schools initiative for instance. However, other areas of the organisation’s endeavours are much more cynical and damaging to the rural economy.”
“We also firmly believe that the organisation is abusing its position as a prescribed body, under the planning Acts. This is demonstrated in the horrendous two-year campaign by An Taisce, against an economic boosting cheese plant project in Co. Kilkenny and in its ongoing objecting to other projects and rural one-off homes across the country.”
“Major questions arise as to how the organisation funds its expensive and time-consuming planning objections and legal challenges. Thus far, despite our constant highlighting and raising these issues, we have not received any straight answers from either An Taisce or the government.”
“Once again, last week in the Dáil, Minister Hildegarde Naughton failed to adequately address our concerns and deliberately, in a misleading manner, only referenced a small proportion of the overall state funding going to the organisation, from one government Department.”
“In fact, the government’s ongoing flippant responses to our concerns, serve to raise much deeper questions and illustrates an utter disregard for the expenditure and stewardship of public funds to this organisation.”
“Bearing in mind that the vast majority of An Taisce’s annual income comes from the taxpayer, it is essential to investigate whether some of these funds are being diverted to fund ongoing legal challenges or other planning related objections.”
“The only credible solution is a full root and branch financial review of this organisation. Surely, if there is no issue, then An Taisce should welcome such a review. In the meantime, we reiterate our call for all state funding to the organisation to cease immediately, pending such an analysis.”
“The taxpayer and voters deserve to know if taxpayers’ money is, in fact, being used to fund objections and legal court challenges, against economic development, job creation and rural housing by the agency.”
“The government’s response to our calls have been shameful.”
“Failure by the government to act on this issue over the summer recess, will mean that we are left with no alternative but to move a private members Bill in the autumn seeking to have An Taisce removed as a prescribed body under the planning Acts.”
“We firmly believe that the public deserve transparency, and rural communities deserve to be free from the vindictive hindrance of a government-funded An Taisce,” concluded Deputy Mc Grath.