Niall Collins allegedly intervened in planning dispute for property developer, called as witness in court case

Fianna Fáil minister of state Niall Collins is to be called as a witness in a High Court case – in which he will be asked to account for his alleged intervention in a planning dispute because of a senior party official’s involvement.  

A successful objector to a proposed Galway hotel and apartment development is being sued by the developer and a co-defendant in the case has written to Collins outlining his plans to call the Limerick County TD as a witness.

Collins has refused to address the allegations despite being informed in March this year that he will be asked to give testimony. Speaking to The Ditch the objector said he had received “no reply” from Collins to his 20 March, 2023 email.

‘You used your influence’

Property developer Strategic Land Investments Ltd in October 2020 applied to Galway City Council for permission to build a hotel, leisure centre, office building and 309 apartments. The development was to be constructed on land in the north of the city zoned only for light industrial and commercial use.

Pat O’Neill, a 2019 Limerick City Council local election candidate for Fianna Fáil and community activist, objected to the development. O’Neill claimed the scheme was inappropriately designed and “contrary to the commercial and industrial zoning” of the site.

Galway County Council granted permission for development in August 2021, despite O’Neill’s submission. Just more than a year later, in September 2022, An Bord Pleanála (ABP) ruled in O’Neill’s favour and overturned the council’s decision to grant permission for the Tuam Road development.

Despite this ABP ruling Strategic Land Investments is now pursuing O’Neill in the High Court.

In January 2023 the developer issued a High Court civil plenary summons against Pat O’Neill and Liam Carroll alleging they caused the developer “loss by unlawful means” and interfered with their “economic interests”, claims denied by the defendants.

Carroll, who had been asked by Pat O’Neill to meet with developer Strategic Land Investments on his behalf, wrote to Niall Collins just weeks after the legal proceedings were issued.

Carroll in his email alleged that Collins had intervened in the case on behalf of Strategic Land Investments because of the involvement of a Fianna Fáil official in the development.

“You (Collins) subsequently made representations to Pat O’Neill on behalf of Strategic Lands Investments Ltd, whereby you used your influence on Pat O’Neill, stating (a Fianna Fáil official) was involved in the proposed development, impressing upon Pat to meet with representatives from Strategic Lands Investments Ltd,” claimed Carroll in his email to Niall Collins dated March 20, 2023.

Carroll in his email wrote, “It's my intention to bring this matter to Michéal Martin's attention,” adding, “I will be calling on you Mr Niall Collins as a witness in this case.”

Carroll has called on Collins to meet with O’Neill, who Carroll says has been exposed to a “vexatious” High Court case.

“I am hereby calling on you to immediately meet with Pat O Neill… offering unconditional apologies indemnifying them from all costs and exposure due to these vexatious proceedings where your influence has exposed the O Neill family to horrendous levels of stress where he is now faced with High Court Proceedings,” he wrote.

Collins hasn’t responded.

A second source close to the legal case, who spoke on condition of anonymity, made the same allegation as Carroll against Collins.

Last week Galway-man Carroll filed a notice of motion with the High Court Central Office seeking to have the case dismissed on the grounds that Strategic Lands Investments still hasn't served a statement of claim. That application is due to be heard in the High Court in October this year.

Collins and Strategic Land Investments declined to comment.

The Ditch editors

The Ditch editors