Since the revelation of Robert Troy’s undeclared property interests, there has been havoc in Dáil Éireann amongst similar negligent property owning TDs. Though it comes as no surprise that approximately 48 TDs and 29 Senators have vested interests in the property market, one must be shocked by the number of properties owned by individual members of the Dáil.
Whether it be through landlordism or investment properties, our elected representatives have demonstrated the simple fact that their fiscal interests are vastly different from that of the general public.
Robert Troy, the now former Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, has acknowledged his ownership of 11 properties, of which 9 are currently being rented by tenants; what has not been acknowledged, and may never be, is the immorality of such a trend amongst the members Dáil Éireann. It is known that 5 of Troy’s tenants are utilising the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) scheme, meaning that Troy receives payments from local authorities on his tenants behalf, whilst his tenants contribute a weekly sum to the local authorities.
As Stephen Donnelly’s recent addition to the ongoing property scandal has shown, there has been a move amongst TDs to declare their property interests amidst Troy’s downfall. Donnelly’s own registration of a property previously unregistered for a period of 3 years followed days after the initial release of the Troy scandal.
Whilst Donnelly has since owned up to his mistake, acknowledging the administrative negligence on his part to not renew his property registration; why is such a lame oversight the topic of news headlines and not its implications?
It has been disclosed that the unregistered Sandyford based property in question has gone into negative equity following the 2008 financial crash. Stephen Donnelly, the self-proffessed “accidental landlord” has on several occasions tabled efforts to grant tax exemption status on rental income derived from such properties.
Stephen Donnelly has made the following statement in regards to his defence of small landlords:
“We need people who are able to rent places. We had a situation where Irish citizens who had a property, for their pension or though negative equity, were being taxed at about 50 per cent of rental income. Corporate investors were paying a tiny fraction of that. I didn’t believe that was the right policy, I still don’t.”
Source: The Irish Times
Whilst Donnelly’s stance against corporate landlords is a sentiment almost universally supported by the Irish public, and his attitudes toward negative equity and pensioner landlords are easily defendable positions; when considering Donnelly is an elected representative and the ongoing housing crisis, the circumstances of his property scandal are far more apparent.
The implication of Donnelly’s defence of so-called “accidental landlords’ ‘, is one of a politician utilising his position to pursue a cause that, regardless of any genuine sense of commitment or belief, is one in which his personal finances are concerned. Had the aforementioned investment property not gone into negative equity, would Donnelly have still lobbied in favour of a tax exemption status on poor investments? What is an “accidental landlord” if not a poor investor?
The alternative point of view would be that, contrary to general opinion, these TDs are actually providing a service to their tenants by letting out their properties. One may further defend the significance of the right to own private property, even amongst elected representatives; but in light of the excessive number of properties owned by elected representatives of the Irish government, the extent of such rights must be contextualised.
In a just society would Robert Troy be permitted to own 11 rental properties, whilst simultaneously occupying a seat in Dáil Éireann? Would the same rights be extended to Michael Healy Rae amongst other TDs who are known to possess a wealth of real estate? As private citizens their land ownership, whilst in gross excess, would be tolerable, but the simple fact of the matter is that, as elected representatives of the Irish government, they are not private citizens.
As public figures, it must be considered as to whether elected representatives ought to have the same rights as the general public. Considering that not one, but 48 TDs are landlords or landowners, the authenticity of their representation of the Irish public is subsequently placed in question. Owing to the personal financial interests of several TDs and Senators, to what extent are they inclined to lobby in favour of their personal fiscal interests rather than those of their constituents? Is it right that members of the Irish government are actively profiting from rental income during an ongoing housing crisis?
Politicians ought to be public servants in the most literal sense of the term, it is foolish to believe that our largely complacent and incompetent civil service bureaucracy can be expected to uphold the foundations of the state at the command of a clique of clueless politicians.
It remains to be certain as to whether the current property debacle will be remembered by the public conscience, and contribute further impetus to Sinn Féin’s guise of anti-establishmentarianism, or as to whether it will be memory-holed before the next news-cycle.
With a polling popularity of 35%, Sinn Féin appears to be the most likely party to benefit from such a scandal if it weren’t for Sinn Féin TD Johhny Guirke’s own involvement. Guirke has been threatened by his party with disciplinary action over his failure to register one of his several rental properties with the Residential Tenancies Board.
Yet throughout this scandal not once have concerns been raised as to the existence of an Irish government composed of individuals incapable of managing their own financial assets, who are trying to solve a housing crisis. With over 10,500 homeless Irish people, and an influx of approximately 38,700 Ukrainian refugees, the priorities of the Irish government appear outwardly warped, not only in their humanitarian preference for foreigners, but in their negligence of our current housing supply and the demand for it.
As the school year comes to a start, it comes as no surprise that the issue of student accommodation, willfully ignored for several months, has come to the forefront of government housing concerns, frantically relocating Ukrainians currently occupying student accomodation to alternative housing arrangements. So chaotic is the current housing market that Gardaí have warned students of a 30% increase in rental property scams, in which Irish students are defrauded of small sums of money, the median loss being €1,300, by individuals looking to exploit the housing crisis for their personal benefit.
If such a scandal has presented itself amongst the elected representatives of the Irish government, implicating two ministers in undeclared financial interests, their capacity for leadership must be severely critiqued. The negligence of their own financial circumstances are an indictment upon their capabilities to manage even the economic decline of the Free State. Dáil Éireann has become the modern equivalent of 19th-century Spanish caciques, managing the decline of their local area and syphoning wealth out of the community. Let us hope that in a small nation like Ireland, people may smell the rot more than they did in Spain.