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Sunday 22 October 2017

€370,000 bill for empty e-voting shed

Paul Melia

Paul Melia

THE TAXPAYER faces the prospect of a bill of more than €350,000 to rent an empty shed which was used to store the controversial e-voting machines.

The Irish Independent has learned that the Department of the Environment is locked into a 25-year lease at a premises in Co Monaghan, and that there is 17 years left to run at an annual rent of more than €21,500.

This means that unless there is a break-out clause in the lease -- which allows either side to terminate the contract -- the State faces paying almost €370,000 between now and February 2029 to rent an empty shed.

The shed is located outside Clones in Co Monaghan, and is owned by Martin Duffy.

Mr Duffy was awarded the lucrative contract in 2004 by his aunt, former Cavan/Monaghan returning officer Josephine Duffy, after she viewed a number of premises.

The Government announced earlier this week it had sold the infamous €54m e-voting machines for scrap for just over €70,000, or €9.30 each.

A huge fleet of trucks will begin removing the 7,500 machines from 14 locations on Monday.

They will be taken to a Co Offaly recycling company, KMK Metals Recycling Ltd in Tullamore, where they will be stripped down, shredded and sold.

About 60pc of the machines are stored in Gormanston, Co Meath, with the rest in 13 other locations. Four of these 13 premises will be used to store other voting equipment, such as ballot boxes, and nine will no longer be required.

Eight of the nine premises are on short-term leases of no longer than a year, apart from the one owned by Mr Duffy at Scotshouse near Clones, Co Monaghan which runs for another 17 years.

Legal experts said last night that unless there was a break-out clause in the lease, the State would have to honour the contract. However, the lease could be terminated by agreement.

"If there's no clause, there's absolutely no reason to agree to a break," one said. "You could just say sorry, I've 15 years left to run on a lease. It's something that's negotiated. I've been in a position many times where the landlord shrugs his shoulders and says 'make me an offer.'"

The 25-year lease given to Mr Duffy was the longest-term lease awarded to any operator to store the e-voting machines. Some 280 were held at the agricultural shed, which was built without planning permission.

Removal

Mr Duffy, who could not be reached for comment yesterday, sought retention planning permission in October 2009, which was granted in April 2010.

The e-voting machines will be removed from the premises by September.

Irish Independent

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