Fianna Fáil minister of state Niall Collins lied about homeownership on planning application

Fianna Fáil minister of state Niall Collins lied to conceal his homeownership in a successful planning application.

The Limerick County TD claimed to be living in his parents’ house when he and his wife were in fact living in a property they’d bought two years previous. Under the terms of the Limerick County Development Plan 1999, planning applicants were required to demonstrate their need for their proposed dwellings. Applicants who already owned a property wouldn’t be able to show this need.

When Collins published the required notice of his plans for the new property in the Limerick Leader, he gave his name as “Niall O’Connor”, deciding to use his wife’s surname.

Once Collins had received planning permission for the property, he submitted an updated application that featured his correct address – the property he and his wife already owned.

Collins’s ex-ministerial colleague Damien English was forced to resign after a Ditch report that detailed how the Meath West TD lied about his homeownership on a 2008 planning application,

‘You are requested to clearly demonstrate your need for the proposed dwelling’

In May 2001 Niall Collins applied to Limerick County Council for planning permission for a 305 square metre, two-storey house in Patrickswell, county Limerick on a site owned by his father.

As part of the application, which the council received 23 May, 2001, Collins was required to show that he hadn’t previously owned a home in what Limerick County Council called a “pressure area”. Under the terms of the Limerick County Development Plan, in place at the time, applicants who already owned a home in the area would be unsuccessful.

Minister of state f​​or skills and further education Collins was first asked whether he had lived in the pressure area prior to 1990, to which he answered “yes”. He was also asked for the address of where he’d lived and for how long he’d lived there.

He gave the address as “Red House Hill, Patrickswell, Co. Limerick”, the Cloughkeating address of his parents’ family home, and said he’d lived there for 30 years till the time of his application – for all his life.

This was a lie.

He was then asked to show he had a housing need. “Having regard to your current living accommodation you are requested to clearly demonstrate your need for the proposed dwelling,” reads the application. If Collins admitted to already owning a home in the area his application would’ve been unsuccessful.

Collins’s application claimed the following: “Applicant proposes to build his own family home and move out of his parents’ house.”

This was a lie.

Collins had been living with his wife in a property on Father Russell Road, Dooradoyle they’d bought in 1999, according to Land Registry records.

A Limerick Leader article, published in January 2007 during Collins’s campaign for the Dáil, refers to he and his wife, Eimear O’Connor, living at the Father Russell Road address. O’Connor meanwhile, in a 2005 annual return filed to the CRO, also gave her address as being at Father Russell Road.

According to the Land Registry, Collins and O’Connor didn’t sell their first home till 2011.

Collins’s planning application for his new home was successful.

Though he received planning permission in 2001, in 2006 he reapplied for updated permission – he wanted to build two horse riding stables at the property.

In this application he gave his address as being at Father John Russell Road.

Collins was elected to Limerick County Council in 2004. He told the Evening Echo in May of that year that if elected he would seek to "make (the) planning process more user-friendly".

He became a TD for Limerick West in 2007 and has been a minister of state at the Department of Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science since 2020.

Earlier this month Collins denied both his ownership of a Limerick development site and his knowledge of a planning consultant – hired by his wife – who sent an email claiming the Limerick County TD owns the site.  

When asked whether he’s satisfied the information he’s supplied with planning applications has been correct, Collins declined to comment.

The Ditch editors

The Ditch editors