I am opposing this section. I acknowledge that amendments Nos. 1 and 2 in my name were ruled out of order. With the indulgence of the Chairman, I wish to make a number of points which apply to all the sections. I will not repeat my arguments on the sections or detain members, the Minister and his officials unnecessarily. The points I make now apply to this and all the other sections I oppose.
My goal in tabling amendments to the Bill was with a view to reining in the powers granted to IDA Ireland under the Industrial Development Act 1986 to compulsorily acquire land for use by industry. Unfortunately, the amendment which gave effect to that was ruled out of order, so I will summarise why I am opposing the section that copperfastens this power of IDA Ireland.
Its power to take land from people and to give it to private companies is quite extraordinary. It is extraordinary in the sense that it is incredibly far-reaching and it is extraordinary in the sense that on a global scale it is incredibly unusual. I made the point on Second Stage that if one goes through the literature on CPOs globally, what is very striking is that it is never mentioned in the context of state expropriation of land on behalf of private multinational corporations, which is exactly the activity that gave us this Bill in the first place. What is talked about is the state compulsorily acquiring for state infrastructural projects, which is fair enough obviously, and occasionally we hear about it in the context of public private partnerships, PPP, unsurprisingly in a neoliberal world, but the idea of actually forcibly expropriating land for private multinationals is incredibly rare on a global scale. That is what this Bill does by giving land to them, including to American corporations which could well afford to buy land from people if they were willing to surrender it voluntarily.
It is not about compulsory purchase orders, CPOs for schools, hospitals, roads or anything like this. This Bill deals only with CPOs for large industry, which in Ireland means foreign industry. In point of fact, Enterprise Ireland has been specifically excluded from the Bill. We are not talking about small or even medium-sized business. A review of compulsory purchase order laws by a World Bank senior counsel said that an overarching principle in most cases is that a government's taking powers are extraordinary powers that are intended to meet public needs that are not well addressed through the operation of the market, hence it is not typical for laws to allow governments to use compulsory acquisition as the normal means of assembling land for purposes that are clearly commercial, industrial or other profitably private uses alone. That is exactly what we are talking about here. IDA Ireland has had this power since the 1980s but the only time it tried to exercise it was in the Thomas Reid case. The case was appealed to the Supreme Court, which said that not only had IDA Ireland operated ultra vires of the 1986 legislation, but it was also objectively biased in its quest to CPO Thomas Reid's home.
The objective bias in that case derived from the fact that the then chairman of IDA Ireland, Mr. O'Mahony, at the time of the CPO on Thomas Reid's land was also a non-executive director of the PM group, a consultancy firm that shows his site as the most attractive one for Intel from a survey conducted in west Dublin. The Supreme Court found that Mr. O'Mahony participated in two key decisions relating to the lands at Blakestown - the original decision to initiate the compulsory purchase and the crucial final decision in the making of the CPO in November 2012. Mr. Justice McKechnie found that a reasonable observer might doubt whether the chairman of IDA Ireland would be in a position to remain as objective as he might have been expected to be in the circumstances. I think that the finding of objective bias on IDA Ireland's part in the Reid case is something we should bear in mind when we are deliberating on consider giving it more powers in this regard. A State agency, which is not democratically accountable to anybody, having the power to expropriate land on behalf of private industry is crazy enough, but this Bill copperfastens that, when we know that the one time IDA Ireland exercised this power, it did not do so in an upfront manner. This raises very serious questions.
We have zero guarantees that the same thing will not happen again, and the role of An Bord Pleanála under the Bill is insufficient to police it. An Bord Pleanála's remit is not to investigate shady dealings or potential bias. Apart from any concerns regarding potential abuses, I remind members that if a private company wants to acquire land, it can always approach the landowner with an offer. If that first offer is not good enough, it can always raise the offer or decide it is not worth that figure. Why can the company not do that? Why does the company absolutely have to have that piece of land? Bringing in IDA Ireland to take land from a landowner because the company is not willing to pay a high enough price or because the landowner does not want to sell, as was the position in the Thomas Reid case. I am sure that 99% of people in Ireland would not agree with that and they would be appalled that IDA Ireland would be given that power.
My amendments to this Bill which would have had the effect of forcing private companies to have to ask landowners to sell their land and pay the asking price were ruled out of order. It means that it will continue to be the case that private companies can do as they have done and again it is a power that was exercised only once. I think it could be abused and I am opposed to this and to the other sections, although I will not repeat the same points on the other sections.