Sinn Féin’s director of finance, who serves on the party’s ard comhairle, illegally converted an office into a "wholly substandard" apartment – in which his tenant is still living.
Louth-based landlord Des Mackin, who has been Sinn Féin’s finance director for more than two decades, owns at least 10 rental properties in the county – one of which is his own former council house.
When asked if it’s acceptable for a senior party official to provide tenants with illegal, substandard accommodation in the middle of a housing crisis, a Sinn Féin spokesperson said Mackin’s rental properties “are entirely a private matter for him”.
An illegal conversion in a property that already included two flats
Included in former Provisional IRA member Des Mackin’s rental empire is number 88 Bridge Street, Dundalk, which he acquired in 2000.
Almost twenty years later the property landed him in trouble with Louth County Council planners.
Despite already receiving rental income from two first- and second-floor apartments in the property, Mackin illegally converted the ground floor office unit into a third apartment. In 2019 he was forced to apply for retention planning permission.
Permission for the illegal development was refused.
“The unauthorised apartment is wholly substandard having regard to lack of sufficient access to natural light, lack of privacy, lack of ventilation,” wrote planner David Hall in his report dated June 5, 2019.
The report also noted the apartment’s bedroom faced a public path and that existing tenants had resorted to “keeping the blinds permanently shut” to maintain some level of privacy. Two of the windows couldn’t be opened according to the planner who inspected the site in May 2019.
Mackin’s tenant is still living in the apartment.
“My tenant is still in situ while my architect works through any planning issue with the local council,” he told The Ditch.
A former council house now being let
Mackin also lets out his old council house.
He and his young family received a new-build, three-bedroom council house in Aghameen Park, Dundalk, county Louth in 1983.
Mackin in 1989 bought the property from Louth County Council (then Dundalk Urban District Council) at a 50 percent discount under legislation introduced the previous year. He was prohibited from letting the property for 25 years under the terms of the sale agreement, according to Land Registry records.
He didn’t abide by these terms.
A year later, in 1990, Mackin bought a large detached property on a site in Ravensdale, county Louth where he moved with his family. He retained ownership of his former council house and let it to another family – despite the purchase conditions imposed by the local authority.
Mackin told The Ditch, “The council or any other authority have never raised any objections to my renting of my own property.” He still owns the former council house, which is the subject of a registered tenancy according to the RTB.
In the late 1990s Mackin bought numbers 77, 78 and 79 Bridge Street in Dundalk town centre where he operated an amusement arcade and let the apartments above. Numbers 77 and 78 Bridge Street were sold in November 2020 for just €100,000, according to Property Price Register records.
Mackin still owns 79 Bridge Street, which brings in rental income from four apartments, while he operates a security business with his son from the ground floor commercial unit.
Mackin’s other rental properties include a two-bed apartment in Carroll Village, Dundalk as well as a four-bedroom house in the town.
In 2006 a company directed by Mackin reached a €40,973 settlement with the Revenue Commissioners for under-declaring its tax liabilities. Earlier that year the District Court applied the Probation Act against the same company, Century City, over its failure to keep proper accounts.
Sinn Féin finance director Mackin is responsible for “maintaining proper accounts of all income and expenditure, together with the assets and liabilities” of the party, according to its last financial statements submitted to SIPO in June 2022.
A Sinn Féin spokesperson said the party “has no financial interest in any of Mr Mackin's properties”.