herald

Saturday 19 October 2019

Coveney under fire after he failed to act on emails over intimidation and payment

Tanaiste Simon Coveney
Tanaiste Simon Coveney

Tanaiste Simon Coveney has come under fire over his failure to act when his office learned about claims of protection money being paid to criminals to provide security at Dublin City Council housing sites.

The criticism of the Tanaiste comes as Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy appointed a barrister to investigate the serious allegations.

Mr Coveney - who was housing minister when concerns were first raised about Derek 'Dee Dee' O'Driscoll providing "security" for social housing sites - yesterday sought to distance himself from the controversy

In the Dail, Fianna Fail deputy leader Dara Calleary cited front-page reports in the Herald in September 2016 about payments to criminals at building sites in west Dublin.

They included allegations that the city council was aware of payments of what amounted to "protection money" to criminals to allow building work to continue unimpeded.

Mr Calleary said the case raised issues over how the council and the Government handled the claims.

The issue surfaced in the High Court in Dublin this week where the Criminal Assets Bureau was seeking orders in relation to money and property held by known criminals.

Concerns

New emails show Sinn Fein TD Aengus O Snodaigh wrote to Mr Coveney and former justice minister Frances Fitzgerald on Christmas Eve 2016, raising serious concerns about the intimidation of construction workers building social housing for Dublin City Council.

Mr O Snodaigh said the construction of 73 social houses had been stopped because of "a sustained campaign of intimidation of building workers and site security staff" which included a "JCB driver being attacked with petrol".

"It is clear that the intimidation has been orchestrated by criminals who have vowed that no work on any Cherry Orchard site will go ahead unless they get the security contracts or receive monies from the builders," he added.

On January 5, 2017, Mr O Snodaigh wrote again to the ministers to say issues around the housing developments had "escalated".

He said he was told criminals were involved in "setting out conditions" for work restarting.

"I believe the possibility of interference from criminals in deciding the security contract for the site has major implications for this State sponsored project in the here and now, but also in the future," he said.

In the Dail, Sinn Fein TD Pearse Doherty said his colleague's plea to address the issue "fell on deaf ears".

Mr Coveney was forced to admit his office received the correspondence but did not take any action.

Ms Fitzgerald did send a response to Mr O Snodaigh at the time in which she said the council "understandably" stopped work on the site after a "shocking petrol bomb attack".

However, she said she was advised that gardai had not received any complaints that "criminal elements may be attempting to extract protection money".

In the January 2017 email, she said gardai were pursuing a "thorough investigation".

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