No approval given to lease building owned by Robert Troy’s relative says board member

The Longford and Westmeath Education and Training Board (LWETB) didn’t approve a lease on its new headquarters, owned by Robert Troy’s brother-in-law, according to a board member. 

Yesterday The Ditch reported that ex-junior minister Troy intervened in the Dáil to ask education minister Norma Foley for an update on LWETB’s proposed move. Junior minister Peter Burke last week confirmed the deal to local media. 

LWETB board member and county councillor Michael Dollard however says he had no knowledge of the decision to sign a lease on the new headquarters and was “somewhat taken aback” when he learnt about it from Burke’s remarks to media. 

Meanwhile the Department of Education told The Ditch that it hasn’t received any proposal for the move, despite Burke’s claims that fellow junior minister Simon Harris had confirmed it to him.

‘Not the way to do business’

Last week it was reported that Longford and Westmeath Education and Training Board is moving from its current headquarters on the outskirts of Mullingar to the old Bank of Ireland building on Pearse Street in the county Westmeath town. The building is owned by Balroe Enterprises Ltd, a company that is in turn owned by Robert Troy’s brother-in-law Ronan Ginnell, of whom there is no suggestion of wrongdoing. 

Peter Burke told the Westmeath Examiner that the move would “make the ETB headquarters accessible to all”. In a post from his Facebook account the previous day Burke wished the “team all the best in their new HQ”.

Veteran independent councillor and LWETB board member Michael Dollard says the matter wasn’t brought to the board.

“The first I heard about it was when I read it in the newspaper the other day when Peter Burke made the announcement,” he said. Junior minister for European affairs Burke, who told local media he had received confirmation of the development from Simon Harris, declined to comment to The Ditch

Dollard told The Ditch this is “not the way to do business”, adding, “I would have thought that board members would have been advised of ongoing negotiations that were taking place. I don't know what the terms of the lease are or anything like that.”

Such matters are required to be signed off by the relevant boards, according to the Education and Training Boards Act 2013. 

The Department of Education last night told The Ditch that the board hadn’t sent a proposal for the move. 

“No proposal has been made to the Department of Education in relation to moving (Longford and Westmeath) ETB’s head office to this location at Pearse St,” said a spokesperson for minister Norma Foley’s department. 

LWETB chief executive Liz Lavery and board chairperson Fianna Fáil councillor Aoife Davitt have so far refused to answer questions put to them by The Ditch about the decision to sign a lease on the building. 

Councillor Dollard said he would be asking about the deal at next week’s LWETB board meeting.

LWETB declined to comment.

The Ditch editors

The Ditch editors