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Questions Over Sale Of Public Land

Environment Minister Dick Roche has acknowledged as "odd" that neither the Earl of Limerick nor a trustee of the People's Park knew a five-storey block of apartments would be built over a 0.44 acre site they disposed of to Limerick City Council.

But he stressed that he would not be jumping to conclusions and made clear that initial examinations by his department had shown "no impropriety" in relation to the development.

Minister Roche visited the city just days after the 7th Earl of Limerick, Edmund Pery, described the development as a "blight" and an "insult" to its users and made clear he would not have indicated no objection to the development had he known what was planned at the time.

It was the third earl that bequeathed the land for the provision of a park for the people of Limerick in 1877.

"It is odd that people who had an interest in the land weren't aware of it but that is not to suggest anything improper was done," Minister Roche told the Limerick Chronicle.

"The one thing you don't want is the Minister for the Environment poking his nose into every planning application that comes before a local authority.
Whatever faults are in our planning process, secrecy is certainly not one of them. It is very open and transparent," he said.

Minister Roche pointed out that "there was plenty of opportunity for public submissions during the planning process" in respect of the controversial development and went on to note that "the level of public comment was limited."

But he promised to continue inquiries into the matter which was brought to his attention by Government colleague Minister of State Tim O'Malley.

"At this point we have to be able to assure the people that tlie procedures followed were appropriate and proper and I will be swinging past the park myself for a look," Minister Roche pledged on a visit to Limerick.

Minister O'Malley has vowed to keep up the pressure until a number of detailed questions regarding the origins of the development are answered to his satisfaction.

"We now know that Edmund Pery, the Earl of Limerick, is himself desperately unhappy about what has transpired and it couldn't be more obvious that Mr Pery feels that the extent, location and purpose of the building about which he was -approached was not conveyed to him in a straightforward manner-the Earl's statement makes that abundantly clear," Minister O'Malley said.