FG local candidate suspends campaign after report she received money to withdraw planning objection

fg local candidate suspends campaign after report she received money to withdraw planning objection

Marian Agrios in a campaign video.

FINE GAEL local election candidate has suspended her campaign and asked people not to vote for her after a news report claimed she received money and work to her home in exchange for withdrawing a planning objection to a housing development.

News outlet The Ditch published an article yesterday about Drogheda Rural candidate Marian Agrios.

The article states that Agrios had a developer pay her €15,000 and carry out €15,000 worth of work to her home in order for her not object to a housing development near her.

In a statement on her Facebook page today, Agrios said: “Following a report published online yesterday, I wish to announce I will not be contesting the 2024 Local Elections.”

“What occurred was wrong and I am extremely sorry for it,” she added.

“It should not have happened. While my name remains on the ballot paper, I now ask that voters do not consider me for election.”

Once again, I apologise for what happened. It should not have occurred. I will not be making any further comment on this issue.

The Ditch article states that Agrios lodged an objection with Louth County Council to a planning application which sough to build build six extra residential units at a planned development in Termonfeckin.

Agrios lived beside the development, and objected on the grounds that the number of planned houses “exceeds the limit of the local area plan”.

The development received permission but the option remained of an appeal to An Bord Pleanála.

The Ditch cites documents it has seen which show that the developer agreed to pay Agrios €15,000 in cash and to carry out €15,000 worth of work on her home, in exchange for her withdrawing her objection.

The planned development was delayed as a result of the Covid-19 crisis, which shut down the construction sector from March 2020 for a number of months.

Asked about Agrios today, deputy leader of Fine Gael and Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphreys said:

“I happen to to actually know the person and I was surprised to hear that. Nevertheless, she has made the right decision as far as I’m concerned. She has withdrawn from her candidacy and she has asked the people don’t vote for her.”

Humphries added: “People do sign declarations when they come forward for election. As far as we’re concerned party, there is an internal process that will go through and we’ll hear all the facts at that stage.”

Speaking in the Dáil on Tuesday, Fine Gael leader Simon Harris said “spurious objections” are never acceptable.

The Taoiseach was responding to a comment from Labour TD Duncan Smith, who said legislation on ethics in public office is “long overdue”.

“Ethics are not optional extras,” Smith said.

“We’ve had another example of ‘go-away’ money from a developer being given to – in this case – a candidate in the local elections from your own party.”

“I know that candidate has said they’re suspending their campaign or whatever but they’ll still be on the ballot paper with the Fine Gael logo beside their name.”

Smith asked the Taoiseach what he would say to the constituents in Drogheda who will see the candidate’s name on the ballot paper.

Harris said hundreds of amendments will shortly be proposed by Government to planning legislation to curb “spurious objections” to developments.

Harris said that the amendments will also seek to put a stop to objectors seeking payment from developers to withdraw their submissions, “which is never an acceptable situation”.

In a statement this evening, a spokesperson for Fine Gael said: “Marian Agrios’s campaign for the local elections in Louth has ceased. She has asked that voters do not consider her for election.”

The spokesperson said the reported behaviour falls “well short of the standards expected of any Fine Gael candidate”.

They added that Agrios’s posters are being taken down in the Drogheda rural local electoral area and said “more than half her posters [are] already removed.”

“As per her statement, what occurred was wrong and it should not have happened.

“This matter has been referred to Fine Gael’s disciplinary process.”

Includes reporting by Jane Matthews, Muiris O’Cearbhaill and Press Association

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