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Omissions and errors: How Robert Troy's property dealings stoked a major political controversy

Opposition TDs have been calling for the resignation of the Fianna Fáil junior minister.

Image: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie

DESPITE SEVERAL APOLOGIES and clarifications, there are continued calls for the resignation of Minister of State for Trade Promotion Robert Troy.

Following a number of revelations in the media, last week the Fianna Fáil TD was forced to submit several amendments to his declarations to the Standards In Public Office Commission (Sipo).

These include previously undeclared sales of properties to local authorities and a directorship in a company. 

Here’s what’s happened to date.

The Westmeath Property

On 10 August The Ditch reported that Troy had failed to declare his sale of a property in Mullingar to Westmeath County Council.

It was reported that he had bought the property from the Criminal Assets Bureau and sold it to the council in 2018 for €230,000. According to his annual Dáil declarations, Troy had let the property until he sold it to the local authority.

Troy had never declared the sale of the property in his Dáil returns despite being legally required to do so under the Ethics in Public Office Act 1995.

The act requires Dáil members to declare the sale of any goods or services to public bodies if the value exceeded €6,500.

The following day Troy was asked about it by Philip Boucher Hayes when he appeared on RTÉ’s Today with Claire Byrne show. He said that he had not included the property in his declaration because he had sold it during that year.

“I was under the impression – wrongly – that you declared the property that you had in your possession when making the declaration at the end of December, it was an error on my part and I’m going to amend it,” he said. He pointed out that it was not a requirement to disclose who a property was sold to. 

The Longford Property

On 15 August The Ditch had another story about the Fianna Fáil TD. It reported that he had not declared the sale of a second property to another local authority.

It was reported that in 2019 he had bought a four-bed house in Longford’s Ash Lawns estate for €82,000 and three months later sold it to Longford County Council for €163,000.

Rent in Cash

On 16 August it was reported that a tenant of Troy’s at the Westmeath property claimed the TD “insisted on cash payments for rent”.

In a statement to The Irish Times that evening, a spokesperson for Troy confirmed he received payments of rent in cash from a property he owned, but refuted claims that he had insisted on this arrangement. The spokesperson said this arrangement was at the request of the tenant concerned.

“Robert believes he never insisted on cash payment but acknowledges that the rent was paid at times in cash,” they said. “The rent payments were always declared in his annual tax returns and he is fully tax-compliant.”

In a statement Troy said he had “nothing to hide in relation to my compliance as a landlord or in relation to my tax returns”.

He later referenced “inaccuracies” around his alleged insistence of rent to be paid in cash. 

“I have reviewed my records on such, and I fully refute such claims,” he said. “On full review of my records, I can confirm that Westmeath County Council paid rent for this property through electronic transfer from 1 August 2011 to the date the tenancy ended. At all times, I fully declared my income from this, and all property I own.”

An Undeclared Directorship

On 17 August The Ditch reported that Troy had failed to declare a property company directorship in his Dáil register of members’ interests.

 TDs are required under ethics legislation to declare all their directorships in the annual Dáil register.

He declared his directorship in RMT Management in 2019 and 2020, describing the company as a “property management” firm in 2019 and then as “management services” in 2020.

He failed to include the directorship in his declaration for 2021, which was submitted in February this year.

Troy had reportedly told the Companies Registration Office (CRO) in April 2021 that the company had ceased trading and asked for it to be struck off the register. In July 2021 the company was formally removed from the companies register.

According to Sipo guidelines a directorship of a company held by an office holder at any time during the appropriate period must be declared. 

Troy later explained that the company ceased operations in 2020 and he was unaware the Voluntary Strike-Off process was not formally completed until 2021.

Troy’s Statement

On 18 August Troy released a lengthy statement clarifying the amendments he had submitted to the Clerk of the Dáil and to Sipo.

These included:

  •  The sale of the Ashfield property in Westmeath in 2018.
  • The sale of Ashlawn in Longford in 2019, which he said was omitted in error as the property was bought and sold that year.
  • Another property in Mullingar, in Oak Crest, which had been registered in 2019 but was omitted “in error” in 2020 as it was sold that year.
  • Troy’s former registered private dwelling house at Main Street in Ballynacargy which has been rented out since November 2021.
  • His directorship at RMT Management Limited in 2021.

Troy also provided to Sipo a number of other details that legally he does not have to declare.

This included two Rental Accommodation Scheme (RAS) contracts with Westmeath County Council. 

In the statement the junior minister said he fully appreciates the seriousness of his mistake.

“I sincerely regret that my omissions and errors could be seen as my deflection or disregard of my responsibilities as public representative,” he said.

“I take full responsibility and I apologise unreservedly to my constituents, colleagues in government, to the Dáil, and to Sipo for these errors and omissions.”

Further Revelations and Calls for Resignation

On 19 August People Before Profit TD Paul Murphy, who has already written to Sipo asking it to investigate Troy’s omissions, again wrote to the Commission, this time asking it to probe whether his non-declaration of Rent Assistance Scheme contracts with Westmeath County Council constitutes a breach of ethics legislation.

On 21 August The Sunday Times reported that Troy has admitted a rental tenancy at his former primary residence at Main Street in Ballynacargy was not registered with the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB).

It is an offence not to register a tenancy with the RTBB within one month of the start of the tenancy. Troy has said he will pay the late fee.

Meanwhile Taoiseach Michéal Martin was asked whether he was satisfied with Troy’s explanations for the errors.

He said: “He apologised fully and he acknowledges fully the seriousness of the error that he has made and I am satisfied with that comprehensive statement that has cleared the air.”

On 22 August the Irish Independent reported Troy used Dail speaking time to call for more funding for the Rental Accommodation Scheme.

The following day, speaking to RTÉ’s News at One, Troy said he is “embarrassed” about his “very serious mistake”.

He clarified that he currently owns or co-owns 11 properties, nine of which are rented out. He denied that he had attempted to conceal anything, stating that there was “an error in his interpretation”.

Meanwhile, The Ditch reported that Troy did not seek planning permission for the conversion of a co-owned seven-bedsit property in Dublin 7 into a four-unit property.

It reported that, when pressed, a spokesperson for Dublin City Council “conceded that planning permission and a fire safety certificate were required for developments like this”. 

It was confirmed that the property does not have a fire safety certificate, with Troy saying today that none was required.

Troy told RTÉ yesterday that his properties are compliant with all regulations, including fire regulations.

Today, the Irish Independent revealed that Dublin City Council issued a formal warning letter and initiated an investigation for alleged unauthorised development outside of designated working hours on the property at Rathdown Road in Phibsborough in July 2020. This file is still open.

In his latest statement, Troy said he and his co-owner had received advice from the architect-engineer that oversaw the development of Rathdown Road, that the building pre-dated the Local Government (Planning and Development) Act 1963 and pre-dated the Building Control Act 1990 and Building Control Regulation 1991.

“The advice was as there was no ‘material change’ nor ‘material change of use’ as a result of the renovations carried out, an application for a fire safety certificate was not required under Building Regulations, however, all works were completed to the relevant fire safety regulations including the addition of a fire escape as part of these fire safety measures,” Troy said.

I can also confirm Dublin City Council advised no planning was required for 25a Rathdown Road apart from the planning we obtained for the fire escape. Dublin City Council inspected this property in 2015 and in 2016 and issued a report in September 2016 which recommended no further action was required.

There is reported “unease” among Troy’s Fianna Fáil colleagues and there have been calls for Troy to further clarity. The junior minister has said he would be happyto address the Dáil when it returns in three weeks and to answer questions on the issue.

There is also growing political pressure as opposition parties and TDs call for his resignation. The latest call today came from Labour leader Ivana Bacik, who said Troy had shown a “careless disregard” for regulations designed to “prevent corruption”.

An expression of “full confidence” was expressed in Troy by his fellow junior minister Josepha Madigan to Claire Byrne on RTÉ Radio One, saying he had committed “misdemeanours” but had apologised for them.

Also speaking to RTÉ radio today, Minister for the Environment and Green Party leader Eamon Ryan called for investigations into Robert Troy’s handling of his property interests by an Oireacthas committee and Sipo. 

Ryan said Troy’s “significant errors” have the effect of “undermining confidence in the political system” and that the issue needs to be addressed quickly. 

In today’s statement, Troy said he wanted to “reiterate again my willingness to engage with SIPO, RTB or a Dáil Committee as suggested by Minister Ryan”.

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