An Bord Pleanála chairperson won’t say if she stands over ‘activist judges’ comment

An Bord Pleanála (ABP) chairperson Oonagh Buckley has refused to say if she stands over a controversial remark she made about two High Court judges last month.

Buckley took aim at the judiciary during the committee hearing just minutes after she apologised for criticising planning law expert Fred Logue.

“We also have two very activist judges working on the planning lists and they are making very far-reaching decisions,” said Buckley at a sitting of the Dáil Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on April 27.

The term “activist judge” is often used pejoratively to describe members of the judiciary who decide cases based on their own personal views rather than the law and constitution. In recent times US Republicans increasingly use the term when criticising judges whom they consider too liberal.

'Applied the rules of the policy or whatever'

Recently appointed An Bord Pleanála Ooonagh Buckley was referring to judges Richard Humphreys and David Holland who sit on the High Court’s Commercial Planning and Strategic Infrastructure Development List. They rule on judicial reviews against ABP’s decisions.

“Sometimes the board can be at a stage where it made a decision based on what it understood to be the correct law at an earlier stage and a decision is then taken a year or two years later that says it applied the rules of the policy or whatever incorrectly," added Buckley at the Public Accounts Committee meeting immediately after her “activist judges” remark.

Just moments before her swipe at the judiciary, Buckley apologised for singling out planning law solicitor Fred Logue at a conference held a week earlier.

“(Fred Logue) is right, by the way: rewriting the planning code just means he has another 20 years of judicial reviews that are going to make his life very lucrative,” said Buckley speaking at an Irish Planning Institute gathering held in Clonmel, county Tipperary on 20 April.

Social Democrats TD and PAC member Catherine Murphy criticised Buckley for the attack on Logue, saying the chairperson was “shooting the messenger as opposed to addressing the more fundamental issues”.

Buckley's appointment as ABP chair in January came after revelations by The Ditch last year that led to the resignation of the planning body’s deputy chairperson who is awaiting trial on allegations of misconduct during his tenure.

When asked if she stood over her remark about the judges at the PAC hearing a spokesperson for An Bord Pleanála said, “The chairperson has no comment to make.”

The Ditch editors

The Ditch editors