Longford County Council spent more than €40,000 readying ex-Troy property for tenants

Longford County Council spent more than €40,000 on construction work on a house it bought from Robert Troy for almost double what the Longford–Westmeath TD paid for it.

The ex-minister of state for trade promotion recently resigned after a series of stories on his property portfolio published by The Ditch. One of his properties is a four-bedroom house in county Longford that Troy bought for €82,500 before selling it to the local council three months later for more than €160,000.

In an RTÉ News At One interview before his resignation, Troy said that having bought the house he carried out a “substantial amount of work” on the “uninhabitable” property before selling it to Longford County Council.

The council today told The Ditch that it spent a further €43,760 on the house before tenants finally moved in more than a year later.

‘A total cost of €43,760’

Robert Troy in May 2019 bought a four-bedroom house in Longford’s Ash Lawns estate from Fianna Fáil councillor Bill Collentine for €82,500. Three months later he sold it to Longford County Council for €163,000.

Troy didn’t declare this sale. The Ethics in Public Office Act 1995 states that TDs are to declare the sale of any goods or services to public bodies “if the value… exceeded €6,500”. Troy initially claimed the Standards In Public Office Commission (SIPO) told him houses aren’t considered goods.

SIPO later however told the Irish Examiner,There is no definition of ‘goods’ or ‘services’ contained in the Ethics Act”, adding, “If investigating any case before it, SIPO would be required to interpret the legislation and apply it to the case,” it said.

When explaining how he was able to sell the house for almost twice what he paid for it, Troy told Bryan Dobson in an RTÉ radio interview that he’d carried out significant work on the property.

“It was in an uninhabitable state and needed repairs: ceilings had fallen; the kitchen needed fixing; doors hanging off the hinges and so there was a substantial amount of work to be done,” he said.

The Longford–Westmeath TD told Dobson he made a pre-tax profit of €36,000 on the sale.

Longford County Council today told The Ditch it had to carry out further work on the house before tenants moved in more than a year after the sale.

“The works were completed by October 2020 at a total cost of €43,760 and the house was subsequently let,” said a council spokesperson. Documents released to The Ditch under the Freedom of Information Act 2014 confirm that this fee was later recouped from the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage.

‘Additional works were needed’

The spokesperson said after an inspection by the council’s technical team, “a detailed scope of works and bill of quantities was prepared” before the contract was tendered and a contractor appointed.

Explaining what the €43,760 was spent on, the spokesperson said, “At the time of purchase Longford County Council was aware that, while the house purchased was in a good condition, additional works were needed to bring the house up to an appropriate standard for the next 20 years.

“The works involved replacing existing windows, doors and soffits, improving the heating system, replacing bathroom floors with non-slip tiles, replacing kitchen units and boundary treatment.”

Carrying out these works, the spokesperson said, would eliminate “the need for expensive piecemeal maintenance following the letting of the property.”

The spokesperson added that the council first became aware of Troy’s ownership of the property at the contract-signing stage and that the property is now valued at “approximately €215,000 to €235,000”.

Troy declined to comment.

The Ditch editors

The Ditch editors