Minister 'misinterpreted the requirements' after failure to declare second house in Longford

Robert Troy said he had been “under the impression” that only property in his possession at the end of a given year needed to be declared
Minister 'misinterpreted the requirements' after failure to declare second house in Longford

Today it was revealed that Robert Troy had sold a second house, this time at Clonbalt Woods in Longford town, to Longford County Council in August of 2019.

A Fianna Fáil Minister has said his failure to declare ownership of a second house he sold to a local authority, at a price double what he paid for it, happened as he had “misinterpreted the requirements for registering interests”.

Last week, Robert Troy, the Minister for Trade Promotion, Digital and Company Regulation at the Department of Enterprise, described his failure to declare the sale of a property in Mullingar to Westmeath County Council in 2018 as an “error”, and said he would be seeking to amend the Dail’s register of interests accordingly.

However, today it was revealed that Mr Troy had sold a second house, this time at Clonbalt Woods in Longford town, to Longford County Council in August of 2019.

Neither the sale of that property nor the fact it had been in Mr Troy’s ownership, appeared on the register of interests for 2019, in apparent contravention of ethics rules for elected representatives.

Under those rules, TDs and senators are obliged to declare all property assets in their possession during the calendar year which the register of interests covers.

They are also obliged to outline any contracts with public bodies greater than €6,500 in value carried out during the relevant year. 

Contacted for comment by the Irish Examiner, Mr Troy said he had been “under the impression” that only property in his possession at the end of a given year needed to be declared.

“As the property in Longford was bought and sold in the same calendar year it was not registered in the 2019 return,” he said, adding that he had since contacted both the Standards in Public Office Commission and the clerk of the Dail to tell them he wishes to amend his historical returns.

Under register of interest rules, TDs and senators are obliged to declare all property assets in their possession during the calendar year which the register of interests covers.
Under register of interest rules, TDs and senators are obliged to declare all property assets in their possession during the calendar year which the register of interests covers.

He said that given his two errors to date, he is now in the process of reviewing all of his declarations of interest, with that review since returning one further property — at Oak Crest in Mullingar — which he should have declared but failed to do so in 2020.

He said however that he had been told by SIPO that he was not required to divulge the sale of the house as the ethics act “concerns the sale of goods or services”.

“As a house is neither a good nor a service the provision does not apply,” Mr Troy said.

Mr Troy had bought the house at Ash Lawns in the Longford estate in May of 2019 for €82,500 from a Fianna Fáil councillor for Westmeath, Bill Collentine.

Three months later in August Mr Troy sold the property to Longford County Council for €163,000, a sale that was registered as being not for full market price.

Similar-sized properties in the same estate are currently retailing for close to €250,000.

Mr Troy said that he bought the then “uninhabited dwelling in need of substantial renovations” from Mr Collentine, who he has “known for many years”, and had performed those renovations in order to bring the property “back to habitable use”.

He said he had subsequently given the property to a local auctioneer in Longford, who had “managed the entire sale process on my behalf”.

He said any suggestion the sale had turned a 100% profit “does not reflect the costs associated with bringing the house back to habitable use, nor the professional fees for the acquisition and sale of the property”.

Mr Collentine had not replied to a request for comment at the time of publication.

A spokesperson for Longford County Council said it had in 2019 "purchased a number of houses from local auctioneers to provide social housing”.

Mr Troy, who is 40, has been Fianna Fáil TD for Longford-Westmeath since 2011, and was elevated to his junior ministry when the current Government was formed in July of 2020.

The Ditch website revealed today that Mr Troy had sold a second house, and last week the site reported that Mr Troy had failed to detail the sale of his house at Mullingar’s Ashfield estate to Westmeath County Council for €230,000 in June 2018 in his declaration of interests.

The Minister had bought that property at a Criminal Assets Bureau auction in 2006. The sale price of the house to the Westmeath council was between €30,000 and €50,000 greater than other properties selling in the same estate at the time.

No other house in the development has sold for more than €211,000 in the interim.

Mr Troy had declared the house as a rental property for every year between 2011 and 2017 after being elected as a TD.

Last week he told RTÉ’s Today with Claire Byrne that “due to an error on my behalf, I left it off in 2018 as I had sold the property during that year, and I’m in the process of amending that”.

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