Limerick County Council members relied on the decision of Niall Collins and a handful of his colleagues to dispose of a site when they voted to sell it to the junior minister’s wife.
The meeting agenda at which the sale to Collins’s wife was agreed go as far to say the decision to dispose of the land was in fact made by members of the local area committee. “The disposal of this site was agreed by the members of the Bruff Electoral Area at the meeting held in January 2007,” reads the previously unreleased meeting agenda.
Collins and tánaiste Micheál Martin, along with taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Green Party leader Eamon Ryan have been asked this afternoon by The Ditch if they now accept that councillors relied on the decision reached by Collins and six other county councillors when they voted to sell the land to Eimear O’Connor.
Collins, in explaining his decision to vote for the sale of land at the local electoral area committee, said in a statement “In September 2008 at a statutory meeting of the Limerick County Council, the sale of a property in Patrickswell was approved and sold following a transparent and open sales process, which was open to all."
However a meeting agenda circulated in advance of this council meeting shows that the councillors relied on the earlier accord, in January 2007, in their decision to sell the land to Collins’s wife.
The agenda for the 17 September, 2008 meeting – which wasn’t included in Limerick City and County Council’s release of documents under the freedom of information act – show that councillors voting on the matter were given a note.
“The above vacant site which was zoned for mixed use was put on the open market for sale. A purchase price of €148,000 was agreed and planning permission for the construction of a two-storey building comprising of a ground floor medical centre and first floor offices was granted in June 2008 to Ms Eimear O’Connor.
“It was proposed to dispose of this property containing 0.074 acres approx. to Eimear O’Connor for the sum of €148,000. The disposal of this site was agreed by the members of the Bruff Electoral Area at the meeting held in January 2007,” reads the note.
Each piece of public land that was disposed of at the meeting included a similar note, which in each case was used to explain to councillors voting on the matter why the land should be sold.
In the case of the Patrickswell site that was to be sold to Collins’s wife, the proposal that Collins participated in while a councillor with six colleagues was given as the justification.
Though the proposal the council voted on at this September 2008 meeting referred to the site as “vacant”, this wasn’t the case. It had in fact, for decades, been a children's recreational area. As reported by The Ditch, locals pleaded with the council to maintain its ownership of the site.
Once sold to Collins’s wife it lay vacant for almost 15 years.