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Galway councillor who didn't declare a house, some land and €150k payment explains why

Cllr. Tom McHugh was featured in last night’s RTÉ Investigates programme.

Tom McHugh explained a number of omissions from his register of interests.
Tom McHugh explained a number of omissions from his register of interests.
Image: Facebook

A GALWAY COUNCILLOR named in last night’s RTÉ Investigates programme says his failure to declare a house was “an oversight” and that land he didn’t declare was left to him by his parents.

Cllr. Tom McHugh (Fine Gael) of Tuam told Today with Sean O’Rourke that, while was aware the land was to be left to him, he wasn’t aware it had actually been transferred when he was updating his register of interests.

Last night’s programme outlined that McHugh had an unfinished house, a thirty acre farm and commercial land that he did not declare. The local councillor wrote to Galway County Councillor last month apologising for the oversight and fixing it.

The programme also reported that he received €150,000 from Galway County Council that was not declared. He says it was for his part in a local construction project.

Speaking this morning, McHugh explained why he had not made the proper declarations:

The first declaration I filled in, I spent a lot of time reading it to ensure that it had everything correct. Thereafter, I basically looked at the previous year’s declaration to see and I’d say “are there additions to this or are there subtractions?” Then I go through it.

“The portion of land, I didn’t think it was transferred to me. It’s inheritance from my late father and mother and I didn’t think that it had been transferred to me,” he said.

“As regards the other portions of land, they’re associated with other properties and within the curtilage of those properties, the house that he referred to that was an oversight.”

“And in relation to the €150,000, yes I received it from the Department of the Environment, through Galway County Council, and I honestly didn’t realise or understand that that should have been declared.”

McHugh said that, while the declaration form is “not a hugely confusing document”, there are aspects to it that are confusing.

He added that his brother was dealing with the inheritance from his parents and that he didn’t realise the transfer had been completed.

Undercover

The undercover part of last night’s programme saw a journalist posing as a fake investor called ‘Nina’ seeking advice from councillors.

McHugh says that he met ‘Nina’ on good faith and agreed to do some research on her behalf, but refused when wrongdoing was suggested by the undercover reporter.

He therefore feels that RTÉ should have given some “balance” to the programme by showing that some councillors, like him, would not engage in such underhand tactics.

“I’m more than a bit disappointed in RTÉ because I saw the programme last night and, let me say from the outset, that people who get elected to public office shouldn’t do it for personal gain, I don’t do it,” he said.

But I do expect that RTÉ should have created a balance last night and if I had been interviewed that would have given the programme some balance. Because today every public representative, members of local authorities, members of Dáil Éireann, members of the Seanad are all tarred with the same brush.

Read: “What’s in it for me?” – Explosive RTÉ documentary shows politicians seeking cash >  

Read: “I lured her into my trap” – councillor claims he was only playing along with £10k RTÉ sting >

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Rónán Duffy

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