Delays boosted value of Gilmore site by €385,000
Labour leader's wife agreed €140,000 deal
Published 03/11/2010 | 05:00
THE wife of Labour Party leader Eamon Gilmore originally agreed to sell land for a new school for €140,000 -- but saw the value of it soar to €525,000 after the project was delayed by five years.
The final price accepted by educationalist Carol Hanney was a massive €385,000 more than the price she first agreed in the year 2000.
News of the massive price inflation will horrify critics of the State paying exorbitant prices for land -- including Labour leader Mr Gilmore and his deputy Joan Burton.
The fact that the site could have been snapped up for a quarter of the final price will also anger those involved in the school project.
The Irish Independent revealed earlier this week that the site in Killimor, Co Galway, is now valued at between €50,000 and €100,000 because of the collapse in land prices.
The price inflation came after a bizarre chain of events in which locals saw their bid to build a new school fail in 2003, only to be resurrected by the Department of Education in 2005.
Ms Burton hit out last year at "property tycoons" who made "a mountain of money" from selling school sites in her own constituency.
The Irish Independent yesterday revealed Ms Hanney received an additional €10,000 this year from locals looking to extend the two-and-a-half acre site to accommodate a hurling pitch and playground.
The extra half acre parcel of land was paid for by locals from money built up over a decade of fundraising through initiatives like raffle ticket and cake sales, as well as a scheme where locals "sponsored" a brick in the new school.
It brings the total amount of money Ms Hanney received for the site, which she inherited from her mother, to €535,000 -- and she has not sold all of the land.
A committee was established around 15 years ago to raise money to replace the current school, which was built in 1964.
The building, which accommodates 120 pupils, is overcrowded; some classes are held in prefabs; and children have to cross the schoolyard to the main building to use the toilets. The principal's office is located in a staff toilet.
Locals initially began fundraising when they thought they needed a deposit for the school. They initially identified the site and negotiated with Ms Hanney for its purchase.
They agreed on a two-and-a-half acre site for €140,000 in 2000, and understood the department would then pay for the site and the building of the school.
They applied for planning permission for a six-classroom school in 2003.
The planning application included a letter from Ms Hanney saying she agreed to sell the site for the school.
The letter does not mention a price but a number of sources confirmed it was around €140,000.
The scheme was given conditional planning permission but it bizarrely fell through, with locals laying the blame at the door of the Department of Education.
"The department pulled it," one local source said. "I think it was when it was to go to tender. They never told us why."
The department then took over the entire project of building the school and publicly advertised for a suitable site. Following the advertisement, Ms Hanney's site was chosen again.
Sources said an initial agreement was entered into to pay her €525,000 in 2005, which was later finalised in 2006 or 2007.
A spokesman for Mr Gilmore last night said the school approached Ms Hanney about the possibility of purchasing the site about 10 years ago.
"Discussions followed but no sale was ever concluded," the spokesman said.
"The land was not professionally or independently valued until an advertisement was placed in the 'Connaught Tribune' in September 2005 seeking land for the school."