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Tánaiste Simon Coveney 'not aware' criminals were paid protection money by council

Tánaiste Simon Coveney has said he was unaware officials from Dublin City Council recommended that protection money was paid to criminals. Picture by Aoife Moore, Press Association
Aine McMahon and Cate McCurry, Press Association

Tánaiste Simon Coveney has denied he was aware officials from Dublin City Council recommended that protection money was paid to criminals.

On Wednesday, the High Court heard that officials from the council were aware and recommended that protection money be paid to two criminals so that social housing could be built in west Dublin in 2016 and 2017.

Three firms, who were delivering the homes for the council, were giving €1,200 and €1,500 a week to the criminals to stop attacks on workers, the court was told.

In a statement on Wednesday, Dublin City Council said no payments were made by it to the two men and it is arranging for an independent investigation to be carried out into all aspects of its involvement in this matter.

Sinn Féin TD Pearse Doherty raised the issue of protection payments at Leaders Questions in the Dáil.

He said his party colleague Aengus O'Snodaigh wrote a letter in 2016 while Mr Coveney was housing minister about how criminals were demanding payments of up to half a million euro from Dublin City Council.

"The correspondent related the construction of 73 social housing units in Cherry Orchard.

"In the letter Deputy O'Snodaigh informed you and the rest of the recipients that construction had halted on the site following a sustained campaign of intimidation and the building site workers and security staff were under threat," said Mr Doherty.

"Aengus O'Snodaigh offered to meet with the local gardaí, offered to meet with the minister and individually to provide further information in relation to it and it all fell on a deaf ear," he said.

Mr Coveney said the first the heard of such allegations was on Wednesday and not during he his tenure as housing minister.

"I'm not disputing that this is a serious issue.

"It was raised and sent to my office and we didn't respond to Aengus O'Snodaigh as far as I'm aware and that was raised and sent to my office but I did not," he said.

"I wasn't aware of it and if I was I would have raised this with the minister of justice. I'm not saying emails weren't sent into my office.

"I'm trying to understand what happened there.

"But what what I what I'm also saying is that the appropriate response here was from a minister for justice as it is a garda issue, and was a guard issue at the time."

"We need a completely independent investigation of Dublin City Council so that we can establish exactly what happened and when and who etc so that we can ensure that we understand what happened here to make sure it doesn't happen again," he said.

Mr Coveney said the issue was responded to by justice minister of the time because the emails pertained to criminal allegations.

Daithí Doolan, Sinn Féin councillor for the Ballyfermot and Drimnagh area, said: "We contacted Minister Coveney on Christmas Eve 2016 and we went into detail about what was going on in that site.

"We explained our deep concerns in that email.

"They [ministers) didn't respond positively in an email, one of the ministers said no, and said it would be inappropriate to meet.

"They had total disregard for our concerns, it was a disregard for workers on that site, it was a disregard for the greater community.

"Rather than engage with us to seek a solution, so the building would proceed, they chose to ignore it and abandon the community to the criminal gang.

"They chose to ignore our warnings."

A spokeswoman for the Garda Press Office said: "Legal Proceedings remain ongoing in this case and An Garda Síochána will not comment."

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