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Tuesday 21 March 2023 Dublin: 11°C
Sasko Lazarov Norma Foley speaking outside government buildings in July. Image: Sasko Lazarov/RollingNews
# Dáil
Investigation: TDs who own rental property but haven't declared rental income
One TD registered 18 properties and no rental income.

EIGHT TDS WITH letting property interests have no rental income listed from them on the Dáil record, an analysis by The Journal has found.

A section of the Oireachtas’ Declaration of Interests says that TDs must state if they own a property from which they receive more than €2,600 annually, while another section also asks them to state when they have any land interests.

In a section of the register requiring TDs to declare any additional incomes above €2,600, seven TDs who had declared ownership of rental properties elsewhere on the register did not mention if they had received any rental income. An eight told The Journal that he had declared rental income correctly in his submission, though this is not reflected in the published list.  

The eight TDs who had listed property in their forms, but said they did not receive any rental income listed are the Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly (FF), the Minister for Education, Norma Foley (FF), the Ceann Comhairle of Dáil Éireann, Seán Ó Fearghaíl (FF), Seán Canney (Ind), Alan Dillon (FG), Johnny Guirke (SF), Michael Healy-Rae (Ind), Matt Shanahan (Ind).

Under guidelines set out by the Standards in Public Office Commission (SIPO) and The Committees on Members’ Interests, which oversee compliance with disclosure of interests, TDs must declare any income from a “remunerated trade, profession, [or] employment”, including rental income, exceeding €2,600.

One TD, Shanahan, admitted to The Journal that his declaration was in error and he would be submitting a correction.

An additional TD, Colm Burke (FG), listed income from a rental property in their disclosure, but did not disclose owning any property in the section of the form which required him to do so.

The Journal contacted 144 TDs asking for confirmation on their disclosures as part of an investigation into how many TDs are landlords (another 16 were unambiguously landlords, according to their returns). We then followed up with the eight TDs who listed residential rental properties on the register, but who did not disclose a declarable income from those properties. 

We asked them to confirm whether their disclosure was accurate, if it had changed since the form was submitted, and if they intended on amending their disclosures.

Office holders

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly (A Fianna Fáil TD for Wicklow), had listed an apartment and a house he was letting in his disclosures, but did not list any alternative sources of income in his disclosure form. In August, Donnelly had admitted he registered a property he rented with the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) late. A spokesperson has described the property as having a “long-standing tenancy”.

While office holders, such as Donnelly, education minister Norma Foley, and Ceann Comahairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl, do have special guidelines for disclosing interests, these generally demand additional requirements, and declaring rental income above €2,600 is still an explicit obligation.

Donnelly did not respond to The Journal’s requests for comments.

Minister for Education Norma Foley (a Fianna Fáil TD for Kerry), had listed half of an apartment in Rathgar, Dublin, which she described as being for “residential letting”, but did not list any sources of income other than “Secondary school teacher” in her disclosure form.

Foley told The Ditch last week that she was updating her declaration of interests after they informed her that she did not include the full address of her property on the form as required.

Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl (a Fianna Fáil TD for Kildare South), listed farmland, a constituency office, and a “House at Fennor: rental” under the section of his form where he is required to list his land interests.

However, a rental income was not listed in the section of the form where a TD’s other incomes are listed, either in copies of the register of interests available on the Oireachtas website or in Iris Oifigiúil, the official gazette of the Government of Ireland.

Ó Fearghaíl sent The Journal copies of his written submissions, one submitted as a member of the Dáil, and another for his “designated directorships” (Ó Fearghaíl lists being on the boards of housing associations, schools, and the Kildare Heritage Company). Both are dated from January, 2022.

While the forms for “special directorship” do show a “house rental” listed where income should be declared, his return for the Dáil only lists farming in that section. Both forms list this house and described it as a rental under the section where land and property should be declared.

The Journal also requested copies of the original declarations submitted by all 160 TDs from the SIPO, The Committee on Members’ Interests, the Clerk of Dáil Éireann, and the Oireachtas.

SIPO claimed the records were held by the Clerk of Dáil Éireann.

“Given the investigative role of the Commission and the Committees, it would not be appropriate to comment further,” a SIPO spokesperson told The Journal.

However, a spokesperson for the Oireachtas re-directed our queries to SIPO. The Committee on Members’ Interests did not respond to a request for comment by the time of publication. 

Members of Dáil Éireann

Rural TDs 013 Sam Boal Michael Healy Rae has 18 properties listed on the register Sam Boal

The guidelines for Dáil Éireann members who are not specifically officer holders also mentions “rental income (including rental income from holiday homes or any other property)”, as well as rental income from “private homes”, as needing to be listed in their declaration of interests.

Michael Healy-Rae (an Independent TD for Kerry) listed 18 properties that he described as being “for letting”. However, he did not disclose receiving rental income from any of these properties.

Healy-Rae did not respond to The Journal’s requests for comment asking whether it was the case that he did not derive a rental income above €2,600 from these 18 properties.

Johnny Guirke (a Sinn Féin TD for Meath West) listed four properties for letting or rental in his submission, but put down “Nil” for the section of the form where sources of income amounting to more than €2,600 must be declared.

Johnny Guirke did not respond to The Journal’s requests for comment.

Guirke’s party, Sinn Féin, warned him last month after it was found that he had allowed a rental property’s registration with the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) to lapse.

“The party has formally spoken with Johnny and made it clear to him that the situation with regard to the rental property not being registered properly with the RTB was unacceptable and that any further lapses would result in disciplinary action from the party,” a party spokesperson said at the time.

Sinn Féin has not responded to The Journal’s request for comment.

Matt Shanahan (an independent TD for Waterford) listed one property that he was letting in his return, but marked as “nil” the section of his declaration that referred to additional income.

A representative told The Journal that this was a mistake and that it would be corrected.

“Landlord, as an occupation was omitted from Part 1(i) in error, and will be amended accordingly,” an assistant to Shanahan wrote.

Alan Dillon (a Fine Gael TD from Mayo) listed one rental property on his form, but also marked additional income as “nil”.

Dillon did not respond to The Journal’s requests for comment.

Seán Canney (an independent TD for Galway East) listed three houses and three apartments he was letting on his return, but marked the section requiring a declaration of alternative income as “nil”.

A representative for Canney, who was first emailed by The Journal a week ago, said “The Deputy is out of the country with limited access to email” and that he would not be back until the evening of 14 September.

The Journal sent Canney a text message asking for comment and also asked his representative for further contact details to get in touch with him.

One additional TD, Colm Burke, listed income from a rental property in their disclosure, but did not disclose owning any property in the section of form about land ownership.

Burke confirmed to The Journal that he owned a commercial property where no-one lived. “The ground floor is rented and occupied by the Cork City Sheriff since 2001,” he said via email.

“The other floors are occupied by the legal practice known as Colm Burke & Co Solicitors.”

No exceptions to listing commercial properties under Section 4 are given in the guidelines.

“It is clear from the submission that I made that I am the owner of the property,” Burke told The Journal. “On foot of your email, I have raised a query with SIPO and am awaiting a response from them in respect of the issue which you have raised.”


‘The Guidelines on disclosures of interest are crystal clear for Oireachtas members so there is no excuse for failing to disclose income from property and other sources,” “John Devitt, Chief Executive of Transparency International Ireland told The Journal. “The only reason I can find for such failures is that politicians know there will be few consequences for not complying with the Ethics Acts.

“SIPO has to be given the powers that Government promised it back in 2015 to investigate without a prior complaint and to allow for criminal prosecution of Dáil and Seanad members who fail to make statutory declarations. The Government must either restore the Public Sector Standards Bill which was delayed by the Oireachtas or publish a reformed Ethics Act which will give SIPO some teeth and ensure that Oireachtas members can be held to account for breaking the law”

[Clarification: The initial version of this article outlined the details of seven TDs. The information about Stephen Donnelly TD was added at 5.40pm, September 14. An update about Seán Ó Fearghaíl's written submissions was added at 11.40am, September 15. ]