The Fianna Fáil councillor who caused outrage this week over his opposition to plans to accommodate a Traveller family in a local authority house in Galway has an interest in two properties in the same neighbourhood, it has emerged.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin on Thursday condemned comments made by Michael Crowe in relation to the Traveller community as “unacceptable” and said his party is taking the matter “very seriously”.
The former mayor had said Traveller culture is “not conducive” to living with most settled communities, and claimed “history has proven” that it leads to “confrontation and general uneasiness”.
He made the remarks as part of his opposition to plans by Galway City Council to accommodate a Traveller family in a house owned by the local authority in Renmore, vowing to “do all I can to stop it”.
Mr Crowe owns an investment property in Seagrove, Renmore and is the director of a company that owns another house in Woodlands Avenue. Both are within a kilometre of the local authority home at the centre of the controversy.
On Friday, he said his interest in the two properties had not influenced his decision to oppose the council’s plans, and denied that there was a conflict of interest.
Asked whether he had declared his ownership of a nearby property when he made representations on the matter to local authority officials, Mr Crowe said: “There was nothing to declare as they were not part of my consideration.”
When he made his original comments on the issue earlier this week, Mr Crowe noted that people had paid “€350,000, €400,000 — big money” for properties in the area.
“They see this possible move as having an effect on that. At the end of the day, I’m supportive of that position. I understand the scenario,” said the councillor, who is a brother of Fianna Fáil Senator Ollie Crowe.
People Before Profit TD Paul Murphy, who raised Mr Crowe’s comments in the Dáil this week, said further clarity is required as to whether he had declared his property interests when making representations on the issue.
“It seems that councillor Crowe’s objections to Traveller accommodation are rooted not only in his own prejudice, but also in his concern for his own property prices,” he said.
On Thursday afternoon, Mr Crowe doubled down on his remarks and told thethat he stood by his statement, adding that he wanted people who get social houses “to look after them properly, and have regard for the area they go into”.
“People can say what they want about me, but the truth is I’m representing the local community in Renmore. What I said this week is correct and right. I don’t believe it’s anti-this or anti-that,” he said.
However, a short time later, he posted a full apology on social media.
“I would like to offer a sincere genuine apology to all members of the Travelling community for my comments earlier this week,” he wrote. “I’m making no excuses, I’m simply apologising. I was wrong.”