Minister for Housing Darragh O'Brien has referred a report into allegations against An Bord Pleanála's former deputy chairperson Paul Hyde to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Gardaí and the Standards in Public Office (Sipo).
The report, conducted by barrister Remy Farrell SC, examined "the management of conflicts of interest and relevant disclosures" relating to Mr Hyde during his time in his role with the planning body.
In a statement issued on Monday evening, the Department of Housing confirmed Mr O'Brien has forwarded the report, adding: "It is now a matter for the Director of Public Prosecutions as to whether a criminal prosecution should be undertaken arising from the findings of the report."
The statement added it would be "inappropriate" for Mr O'Brien to comment on the matter, but said the Minister has "also sought the views of the DPP in relation to the publication of the report having regard to the possibility of a prosecution".
A separate internal report by a senior management team within An Bord Pleanála, requested by chairperson Dave Walsh, is also being carried out, examining further allegations of wrongdoing.
"Mr O’Brien will decide on any further course of action, including possible legislative amendments, following consideration of this report," the department said.
Following the allegations, Mr O'Brien confirmed the Office of the Planning Regulator will carry out an independent organisational review of An Bord Pleanála, with staff of the planning board being given the opportunity to "substantially engage".
The department said the current appointment process for the board will be "overhauled", adding "the process for nomination in place at the moment will cease".
"The Minister will bring a plan to Cabinet in the coming weeks which will outline a new appointments process for members of ABP underpinned by new legislation," the department said.
Mr O'Brien added: "An Bord Pleanála stands at the apex of our planning system and plays a crucial role as the final arbiter of many planning applications.
"In this light, I treat any allegations of inappropriate actions or behaviour by its members with the utmost seriousness. The public must have trust in the impartiality and integrity of our planning system if it is to function effectively in facilitating sustainable development."
On the publication of the report, the Minister said: "I believe it is important that the report be published as soon as possible given the vital public interest in this matter, I have asked the DPP for her views on whether there are any parts of the report which should not be published at this time while the possibility of a criminal prosecution is under consideration.
"I will await her views before publishing the report."
Responding to the announcement, Labour's housing spokesperson Senator Rebecca Moynihan said it is "absolutely critical" that people have full confidence in the planning process, calling for the report to be published in its entirety.
"It’s clear that the independent report into An Bord Pleanála reveals deeper issues and they must be addressed," Ms Moynihan said, adding that Mr O'Brien should convene an Oireachtas debate on the matter in September following the summer recess.
"Transparency and fairness are the bedrock to any democracy and trust in the planning system is completely vital, and the public must be satisfied that the Minister will outline specific actions to address any systems failings.
"The public simply must be able to trust in the bona fides of Ireland’s independent planning body," Ms Moynihan said.
"This debacle has been characterised by a lack of clarity and drip feed of allegations regarding An Bord Pleanála is deeply concerning and demands serious government attention. This is a matter of public interest and must be addressed without delay."