Colourful Ballaghaderreen native enters race with tirade against planning laws

Noel O’Gara is either a serial attention-seeker, or else attention just seeks him out. Over the years the Ballaghaderreen, Co. Roscommon native has commanded media attention in often bizarre circumstances.    Many years ago he claimed that Peter Sutcliffe is not the real Yorkshire Ripper. O’Gara even ‘outed’ the man he claimed was responsible for the murders – a bearded butcher who had worked with O’Gara. The Ballaghaderreen man went to the trouble of writing a book on the subject.   More recently he hit the headlines through his row with residents over his plans to turn Dartmouth Square in Dublin, which he owns, into a car park. That has led to a few court dates and the saga is ongoing.   Now O’Gara, who lives near Athlone, has decided to run in the general election in Roscommon/South Leitrim constituency on a planning reform platform. As ever, his views cannot be filed under ‘mundane.’   O’Gara arrived in the Roscommon People office on Tuesday, confirming the rumours that had circulated earlier in the day to the effect that eight candidates had just become nine. And what a colourful addition!    He sits down, promotional material in hand, and launches into a tirade against the country’s planners.   O’Gara says that he and ‘a dozen or more’ like-minded individuals have set up the Planning Reform Party. He will seek votes on issue alone, commenting ‘I am not a politician.’   O’Gara says the love of the land is the dearest thing to every Irish person’s heart. He points out that after an 800-year struggle for national self-determination planning laws were brought in in 1963. And this is where Noel O’Gara becomes very animated.   Ireland in 1963, he says, was a time of economic stagnation. People were heading for the boats in droves. There was no money around. The planning laws introduced effectively consigned the land owner to the role of herdsman or crop grower and to being only a nominal owner or caretaker of the land.   O’Gara goes on to wage verbal war on the planning permission system. He blames the planning system set up in the 1960s for the corruption and bribery which followed and which ‘is now being revealed by the Tribunals.’   O’Gara says the planning laws were unconstitutional and should have been challenged. He has no problem with planning guidelines but says it is wrong that land-owners cannot do what they want with their land and properties.   ‘If you have an area beside your house and you want to convert it to an office you have to get permission to do that on your property’ he says, clearly affronted. ‘Without planning laws, you could buy a small farm or an acre of land in a beautiful scenic spot of your choosing for small money and build any house you wished and do so at a fraction of the price rather than being funneled into zoned