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Rental Property

Donnelly says he doesn't believe his failure to renew RTB registration warrants his resignation

Donnelly admitted yesterday that he failed to renew a rental property with the RTB for three years.

LAST UPDATE | 1 Sep 2022

HEALTH MINISTER STEPHEN Donnelly has said he doesn’t believe his failure to renew the registration of a rental property with the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) until last week warrants his resignation as minister. 

Donnelly admitted yesterday that the long-term tenancy, which was first registered with the RTB in 2011, was not renewed in 2019.

As first reported by the Irish Times, the property has since been registered with the RTB.

The property itself is an apartment, located in Sandyford in South Dublin.

A statement from his spokesperson said that it was “due to an oversight” that the tenancy registration was not renewed in 2019 when it should have been. 

“The Minister’s interests have been fully declared every year on the Dáil register of members interests,” they said. 

Speaking to reporters today at Dublin Castle, the minister said that “it shouldn’t have happened”.

“The responsibility is mine,” he said.

“It should have been renewed in 2019. That’s my fault. There was an oversight,” he said, stating that he gained no advantage from not renewing the registration.

The minister said he paid a late registration fine of €100 to the RTB.

Speaking to reporters at Maynooth University today, the Taoiseach said he was satisfied with Donnelly’s explanation.

“He has explained the situation, that it should have been registered. It had been registered previously and it had been declared so its seems to be, on the face of it, a genuine oversight.”

“I accept this explanation for that. Other parties have had similar oversights, last week we had a Sinn Féin TD who didn’t have a particular property registered either, and that can happen.”

Addressing the possibility that Donnelly may have had a conflict of interest when speaking on finance bills in the Dáil that would affect landlords, the Taoiseach said he hadn’t seen the context of these particular debates.

“Generally speaking people making a contribution to the Dáil, if they have an interest they should declare that interest. It was declared on the register of interests, it wasn’t that he hadn’t declared it, he hadn’t declared it publicly.”

“You have to look at the context of that debate, there can be very genuine motivations when you’re bringing forward proposals and legislation as well.”

As soon as it was discovered, he spoke to the RTB, who backdated the registration online, he said, explaining that it is the same process that anybody goes through in similar circumstances.

When asked if he was considering his position over the matter, Donnelly said he was not considering his position as minister, repeating that it should not have happened, but adding that he didn’t believe his actions warranted resignation.

He told reporters that the property was registered, but that he missed the renewal in 2019, stating that an existing tenancy needs to be renewed every four years.

Donnelly said it was renewed in 2015, but he missed the 2019 renewal. It must be renewed again in 2023, he added.

“I fully hold my hands up,” he said.

The minister said that two properties he owns have always been placed on the declaration of members’ interests.

When put to him that he has lobbied in the Dáil for accidental and one-off landlords, without disclosing his interests during Dáil debates, Donnelly said there is an interesting question to be asked as to whether every interest must be declared.

He used an example of a debate on child benefit that someone might be in benefit of or healthcare services, which someone could also be availing of. 

Donnelly said the point he made in the Dáil is that the small landlord are paying about 50% tax on rental income where corporate investors and vulture funds are “paying next to nothing”.

“I didn’t leave that was right. And I still don’t believe that,” he said.

A spokesperson for the health minister told The Journal that the minister does not need to make any amendments to the register, stating that the minister “is satisfied his current register is accurate”.

The revelations come a week after former Minister for Trade Promotion Robert Troy resigned following multiple omissions in property registrations.

Troy had failed to register a property in Ballynacargy in Co Westmeath with the RTB and said that he would be paying a late fee to the RTB.

More recently, Sinn Féin TD Johnny Guirke was reprimanded by the party after a property he let was not registered with the RTB due to “an error on behalf of the letting agent”.

A spokesperson for Sinn Féin said that it was “not acceptable” that the property was not registered and said that any additional lapses with property registrations would lead to “disciplinary measures”.

Troy has contacted Oireachtas authorities seeking wide-ranging amendments to declarations he made to the Dáil’s Register of Members’ Interests.

Declaration of interests

The Journal contacted all ministers and ministers of State to ask if they were seeking amendments to declarations they made over the years.

The Taoiseach said he has no plans to amend the the register of members’ interests, with a spokesperson telling The Journal that he is “fully compliant with SIPO guidelines on his declaration to the register of interests”. 

A spokesperson for Tánaiste Leo Varadkar also stated that his declarations are accurate and up-to-date.

Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien, Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe, Education Minister Norma Foley, Transport Eamon Ryan, Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney and Higher Education Minister Simon Harris told The Journal that their declarations are accurate, up-to-date and no amendments are needed.

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Michael McGrath, Tourism Minister Catherine Martin, Social Protection Minister Heather Humphreys, Children’s Minister Roderic O’Gorman, Minister for Justice: Helen McEntee and Agriculture Minister Charlie McConalogue have yet to respond to questions. 

Government Chief Whip and Minister of State with the Department of Tourism Jack Chambers, Minister of State at the Department of Transport Hildegarde Naughton also said they were satisfied that their register of interests are accurate and no amendments are needed. 

A Minister of State for EU Affairs, Thomas Byrne, Minister of State for the Department of Agriculture Martin Heydon, Minister of State for Disabilities Anne Rabbitte, Minister of State with responsibility for Public Health Frank Feighan and Minister of State for the Department of Enterprise Damien English stated they are also satisfied that the current register of his interests is fully accurate and there is no need for amendment.

The Department of Housing said declarations made by its two ministers of state, Peter Burke and Michael Noonan, “are accurate and up to date, no amendments required”

Minister of State at the Dept of Finance, Sean Fleming has also said that he is “satisfied with his return”.

Those that have not responded to questions about their declaration of interests:

  • Minister of State for Mental Health and Older People Mary Butler
  • Minister of State for the Department of Agriculture Senator Pippa Hackett
  • Minister of State for the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform Patrick O’Donovan
  • Minister of State for the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform Ossian Smyth
  • Minister of State for the Department of Education Josepha Madigan
  • Minister of State at the Department of Justice James Browne
  • Minister of State for the Department of Foreign Affairs Colm Brophy
  • Minister of State for the Department of Rural and Community Development Joe O’Brien

Minister of State for Justice James Browne and Senator Catherine Ardagh both told The Irish Times that they have asked Oireachtas authorities for changes to one declaration each.

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Author
Christina Finn and Tadgh McNally