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Fianna Fáil TD Niall Collins Sasko Lazorov/RollingNews.ie
Niall Collins

Paul Murphy makes complaint to Sipo over Niall Collins land sale controversy

Controversy has surrounded Collins over allegations surrounding the sale of land in Patrickswell in 2008, when he was a member of the Dáil.

LAST UPDATE | 28 Apr 2023

PEOPLE BEFORE PROFIT TD Paul Murphy has made a complaint to the Standards in Public Office Commission (Sipo) in relation to the sale of land by Limerick County Council 15 years ago. 

Controversy has surrounded Fianna Fáil TD Niall Collins over allegations relating to the sale of land in the town of Patrickswell in 2008, when he was a member of the Dáil.

The decision to sell the land was taken at a full council meeting, following a proposal by the Bruff local area committee a year earlier to sell off the land.

The Bruff committee was one of five local area committees on the old Limerick County Council, which was then made up of seven local councillors. 

This included Collins, before he was elected to the Dáil in the May 2007 General Election.

In a statement to the Dáil yesterday, Collins said he is in “absolutely no doubt” that his action in relation to the sale of the land was “at all times legally correct”. 

Speaking to RTÉ’s Morning Ireland today, Murphy said he would make a complaint to Sipo over the sale of the land. 

He said it would take a “long time” for Sipo to reach a conclusion on said complaint, but he added that he “would be very hopeful that it’d be… a finding of wrongdoing or breach of the code of conduct”. 

He has since submitted his complaint to Sipo to request an investigation.

In his statement to the Dáil, Collins said that “in hindsight” and given the focus on the issue in recent weeks “it would have been better had I not participated in the local area committee meeting in January of 2007″. 

“Even though it is absolutely clear that my wife did not benefit in any way for my attendance at the January 2007 meeting,” he said. 

“However, when I did attend, it was my full understanding and it remains the same today that I was not participating in a discussion or a decision that in any way contravened the 2001 Local Government Act. No law was broken.

“I did not participate in any decision that authorised the sale of this land,” he said.

Murphy questioned why Collins would have felt the need to recuse himself from the 2007 meeting in hindsight.

Sale of land

At its monthly meeting in January 2007, the Bruff local area committee opted to recommend that the sale of the land be put to a full council vote.

Collins was present at the meeting and his wife, Eimear O’Connor, a GP, had previously written to the council through her solicitor to express interest in purchasing the land.

Addressing this, Collins said in his statement that “various expressions of interest by members of the public” in relation to the land had been made, and one of those people was his wife.

“It was agreed at the area committee meeting that the property should be sold on the open market,” he added.

Minutes taken from that meeting, released under FOI, state that those present at the meeting were “in favour of disposal” of the land.

A recommendation to dispose of the land was proposed by Fianna Fáil councillor Leonard Enright and seconded by Fine Gael councillor Richard Butler.

No objections to the disposal of land were noted in the minutes, while there was also no mention of any contribution or recusal by Niall Collins. 

Collins told the Dáil that an area committee of a local authority does not have disposal rights for the sale of council property.

“This is a reserved and statutory function of the full county council by law,” he added. 

Having seen the documents issued under FOI by Limerick County Council, Collins said “it would appear that a number of offers were received through the auctioneer”. 

He added that the property went on sale on the open market with an independent auctioneer appointed by the county council.

Collins need to make a statement in the Dáil yesterday afternoon stems from the junior minister allegedly not recusing himself from the discussion or detailing that his wife had expressed an interest in the land.

The land was purchased by O’Connor in 2008 at a cost of €148,000, following a full vote by Limerick County Council to sell the land. At this stage, Collins was no longer a councillor having been elected to the Dáil.

In another statement, released earlier this week, Collins said that neither he nor O’Connor had any pecuniary or beneficial interest in the property at the time of the 2007 meeting.

During Leaders’ Questions yesterday, Tánaiste Micheál Martin hit out against The Ditch website which originally reported on the issue.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar gave his backing to Collins last Thursday, telling reporters that he had full confidence in the Fianna Fáil TD.

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