Planning cash objector, ex-Fine Gael candidate has delayed Tara Mines project for more than a year

A former Fine Gael election candidate has delayed a major Tara Mines project for more than a year after he submitted a bogus planning appeal to An Bord Pleanála. Tara Mines was forced to close earlier this year, resulting in the loss of more than 650 jobs. 

John Callaghan, a former Fine Gael public relations officer who junior minister Josepha Madigan was forced to disavow on RTÉ’s Upfront last night, received payments of up to €50,000 in exchange for withdrawing strategically lodged planning objections, according to an RTÉ Investigates programme broadcast last night.

Yesterday The Ditch reported that Callaghan previously ran for Fine Gael at a local election and was PR officer for the party’s Kells branch in justice minister Helen McEntee’s Meath East constituency. RTÉ did not report this Fine Gael connection during its Investigates broadcast.

Boliden Tara Mines DAC in March 2022 applied to Meath County Council for permission to construct “a reinforcement buttress to the extant embankment walls of the Tailings Storage Facility” at their zinc extraction operation in Navan.

The following month, in April 2022, John Callaghan submitted an objection to the development through his bogus NGO Sustainability 2050. In his brief submission he claimed that the Tara Mines planning application “lacked information” and that the documentation submitted was “entirely insufficient”. 

There were no other objectors to the proposed development. 

In October 2022 Meath County Council granted permission for the project. Weeks later Callaghan appealed the decision to An Bord Pleanála. This time he included more detail in his submission with the grounds for appeal mostly relating to environmental issues. 

O’Callaghan’s appeal has delayed the project by more than a year and it is unclear when  An Bord Pleanála will determine the case. 

Tara Mines closed in July this year with the loss of 650 jobs. It cited low zinc prices and energy costs as the reasons for shutting down its operations. Last week it was reported that the company was hoping to reopen by next year.

Boliden Tara Mines has been contacted for comment.

G. Thompson

G. Thompson