An investigation into disclosures of property interests held by Minister of State Robert Troy has been requested by People Before Profit TD Paul Murphy.
Mr Murphy wrote to the Standards in Public Office Commission (Sipo) on Tuesday asking for an investigation of whether there had been breaches of Mr Troy’s obligations under the Ethics in Public Office Act 1995.
Mr Troy’s property dealings in relation to three properties in his constituency have come under scrutiny following reporting on the website The Ditch.
The Longford-Westmeath TD failed to completely register his ownership stake in three houses in the register of members interests, two of which were sold to local authorities. Mr Troy has said he is going to correct the Dáil record of members’ interests with regard to the three properties and that he acted in error. He is Minister of State with responsibility for trade promotion at the Department of Enterprise, Trade & Employment
Mr Murphy’s complaint asks Sipo to investigate whether there are breaches of the 1995 Act in terms of his failure to fully disclose the holdings.
The first property in an estate called Ashfield in Mullingar, Co Westmeath, was purchased by Mr Troy at auction in 2008. He later sold this property to Westmeath County Council in 2018. He has said this was to facilitate the building of social housing. The property appeared on his register of members’ interests from his election to the Dáil in 2011 until 2017, but he failed to register it in 2018. Mr Troy has said this occurred because he mistakenly thought he did not have an obligation to register the property if he didn’t own it at the end of the year.
He bought a second property, Ash Lawn, from a Fianna Fáil councillor in Longford town, Bill Collentine, in 2019. He paid €82,500 for it in May of that year, before selling it on in August for €163,000. Mr Troy said he did extensive renovations on the property before selling it via an auctioneer to the local authority. He failed to register the ownership of this property on his register of members interests as he did not own it at the end of the year.
A third property, at Oak Crest in Mullingar, was included in 2019 but not in 2020 as he no longer had an interest at the end of that year. It is understood a friend of Mr Troy’s purchased the property at auction, and the TD bought a one-third share with an option to raise this to a half. This is reflected in his members interest declaration of 2019. It is understood there were plans to convert it into residential units and sell them to the local authority, but they never materialised.
Mr Troy said he has “no issue” with Mr Murphy submitting a complaint “as I have already acknowledged my error in my declarations with respect to properties sold within the years in question”.
Mr Murphy’s complaint also requests that Sipo investigates whether there was a breach of a requirement to disclose contracts for goods or services with public bodies worth more than €6,500. Mr Troy has said the provision relating to contracts does not apply as it relates to contracts on goods or services, and a house is not a good or service. He disputed the suggestion that he was in breach of the provision.
While it declined to answer a series of questions on the matter due to the confidential nature of its functions, Sipo told The Irish Times that “in summary, there is no obligation to disclose such contracts under the Ethics in Public Office Act 1995″.
On Tuesday evening, a spokeswoman for Mr Troy said he received payments of rent in cash from a property he owned, but only at the request of the tenant concerned. TheDitch quoted a tenant saying he paid rent in cash.
His spokeswoman said: “Robert believes he never insisted on cash payment but acknowledges that the rent was paid at times in cash. The rent payments were always declared in his annual tax returns and he is fully tax-compliant.”
In a statement, Mr Troy said he had “nothing to hide in relation to my compliance as a landlord or in relation to my tax returns. I am fully compliant with both and fully up to date. On rental properties currently and previously in my possession, all rent is and has been declared.”