Oisín Quinn (left) with his uncle, former Labour leader Ruairí Quinn

THE Standards in Public Office Commission (SIPOC) has been asked to probe complaints against a Dublin city councillor in relation to planning policy.

If upheld, the complaint could be used as the basis of a High Court action challenging the validity of certain aspects of the city's draft development plan.

Labour councillor Oisín Quinn has been accused of influencing and taking part in a vote on building-height regulations in the city despite his own connection to "substantial" property interest on Mount Street that would be affected by the policy.

Quinn has vigorously denied the claims made by Michael Smith, editor of Village magazine, and independent councillor Cieran Perry, insisting that at all times he made his property interests known and sought legal advice from within the council as to whether his position was compromised.

Central to his argument is that the debate and motions regarding building heights applied to the entire city and not the area specific to his own property interests.

However, the complainants maintain Quinn should not have taken part in debates on building height, nor should he have voted on the matter.

They argue that under Section 177(1) of the Local Government Act 2001, any elected representative with a beneficial interest in such matters should withdraw themselves from the meeting during the discussion of the subject.

They should take no part in discussions or considerations and should refrain from voting, they say. Quinn both addressed the issues and voted.

His critics further believe his involvement in the debate may have influenced votes and it is in that sense that the validity of the draft development plan aspect could be challenged legally.

Standards in Public Office legislation is designed to prevent those with perceived vested interests from influencing proceedings and states that "extra care" should be taken in matters regarding planning.

There has been no suggestion that Quinn acted out of self-interest but rather that his actions were in clear violation of the rules and that his public comments on the development plan influenced votes and assisted in its adoption.

However, Quinn pointed out that an initial complaint filed with the council's ethics registrar was dismissed as groundless. He said he was unaware that any formal contact had been made with SIPOC on the issue.

In a written response to the first complaint he said it was "premised on an incorrect and ultimately flawed, irrational and unreasonable interpretation of the legislation and the code of conduct for councillors".

He maintains that none of the motions in question referred to his property or the specific area of his property, but were general policies for a large city area.

"I firmly, consistently and openly believe that in order to prevent further sprawl we must concentrate commercial development in Dublin city centre," he said.

He said it would be impossible for any councillor to take part in such votes if they each had to exclude themselves on the basis that they, or a family member, had a property interest in such a large area.