Meath Fine Gael candidate – and assistant to Damien English – in battle with council over unlawful development

A Fine Gael local election candidate and parliamentary assistant to ex-junior minister Damien English is in a battle with Meath County Council – which has served an enforcement notice on her and her husband for unlawful construction work on a “lodge” on their property without planning permission. 

Fine Gael candidate in the Meath local elections Linda Murray and her husband extended what they call an “historic travellers’ lodge” on their property but didn’t apply for planning permission to do so. 

The ‘lodge’ before work began

She and her husband have been forced to apply for retention permission for the structure – which includes “accommodation” according to submitted plans – after the council issued a warning notice against the pair. 

Murray works as an assistant to Fine Gael TD Damien English, who last year resigned as a junior minister after The Ditch reported he lied to a local authority when applying for planning permission and failed to declare ownership of a county Meath property. 

When contacted by The Ditch this evening, Murray said she received a letter from the council informing her the local authority “thought it might be an illegal dwelling”, adding, “But we’ve applied for retention, so we’ve done absolutely nothing wrong.”

The structure has the appearance of a dwelling’

In February this year Finbarr Murray sought retention planning permission from Meath County Council. 

This permission is to extend an “historic travellers lodge” directly beside a home he owns in Kilmessan, county Meath with his wife, Fine Gael candidate Linda Murray.  

The extension, according  to the application, is for “ancillary use” with the Murrays’ home. Records show the Murrays previously applied as a couple for permission to build a shed for “farming equipment” on their property. This time however Finbarr Murray applied alone.

A letter sent by planning consultant Brendan English to Meath County Council says the couple had already built the “lodge” in “the mistaken belief that planning permission was not required for same” after a fire destroyed the previous lodge.

The letter also claimed “the building was always known as a travellers’ lodge and is not a 'dwelling' as referred to”, adding, “The applicant has no intention of selling/ sub-letting the building separate from the main dwelling on site”. 

Plans submitted however refer to “office/accommodation” space – and the council has since questioned the Murrays on whether it should be considered a dwelling,  

The Murrays were forced to submit the application after Meath County Council had issued a warning against them. 

“The site was the subject of a recent warning notice… and the applicant is endeavouring to address same by the submission of this planning application,” reads the letter. 

When asked by The Ditch if she was aware she needed planning permission for the "lodge", Linda Murray said, “'As soon as we were made aware of it we immediately applied for retention.” 

Murray also stated that she wasn’t expecting the council to decline retroactive permission for the building, and that she looked forward to using her “little extension” as an office space some time in the future. 

Murray’s ‘little extension’

Meath County Council has yet to rule on whether the Murrays have permission to keep the unlawfully erected building and in April wrote to request further information on the application. 

In the letter the council questioned Finbarr Murry on the previous claim that the building isn’t a “dwelling”.

“The proposed use of the building is labelled on the floor plans as office/accommodation,” the council wrote, adding, “The structure both internally and externally has the appearance of a dwelling.”

He must now submit further details, including a revised site layout plan clearly showing the building is not for residential use.

The Ditch editors

The Ditch editors