Fianna Fáil minister denies ownership of undeclared development site – despite planning consultant claim

Fianna Fáil junior minister Niall Collins has denied both his ownership of a Limerick development site and his knowledge of a planning consultant – hired by his wife – who sent an email claiming the Limerick County TD owns the site.  

The minister ​​of state for higher education has never declared ownership of the site, recently granted planning permission for five houses, in his Dáil register. Collins’s wife is the registered owner of the site.

But the consultant who submitted the planning application on behalf of the site’s owner, in a 2021 email wrote, “Niall Collins TD is the owner,” before sharing Collins’s mobile number along with an assurance the Limerick County TD would be happy to discuss his plans for the site.

When contacted by The Ditch earlier this evening, Collins said he’s not the owner of the site and refused to accept he knows the planning consultant who claimed otherwise in his email.

‘I can find out for you. I can drop him a text’

According to Land Registry records, Niall Collins’s wife, property developer Eimear O’Connor, owns the site in question in Patrickswell, county Limerick.

In 2019 she, along with business partner Noel Daly, received planning permission from Limerick County Council for the construction of four homes on the site. This decision was appealed by a third party and came before An Bord Pleanála  in June 2019.

ABP’s inspector advised against the development, writing in her report, “Having regard to the pattern of development in the area it is considered that the proposed development, by reason of its height and layout, would seriously injure the residential amenities and depreciate the value of adjoining properties by reason of overlooking and overbearing impact.”

The board agreed and planning permission for the development was overruled.

O’Connor and Daly reapplied to the council in February 2020, this time for five rather than four homes, and received planning permission in April.

Fergal Cusack of building and planning consultancy Cusack and Associates submitted the successful application.

The following year Cusack sent an email, in response to a sales query, where he wrote Niall Collins is the owner of the site.

“Niall Collins TD is the owner and he is happy to meet with you… to discuss. Feel free to give him a call,” wrote Cusack, before sharing C​​ollins’s mobile number.

The Ditch contacted Cusack this evening who confirmed the contents of the email. When asked if Collins still owns the site, Cusack said, “I’m not 100 percent sure to be honest.” He then offered to contact Collins.

“I can find out for you. I can drop him a text and he’ll come back and tell me yay or nay,” he said.

Collins denied his ownership of the site and that he knows Cusack.

When told of Cusack’s email he said, “Well the planner’s wrong,” adding “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

He said, “I’m not the owner of the site at Patrickswell. It’s as simple as that,” before twice asking who the planner (Cusack) is. When told he knows the planner, who was hired by his wife, Collins maintained otherwise.

When asked why Cusack, who submitted the planning application on behalf of the site’s owners, thought Collins owned the site, the minister said, “I’ve no idea why the planner is saying it.”

The Ditch editors

The Ditch editors