Monday 5 December 2016

Gilmore wife got €525,000 for school site now worth just €100,000

Brian McDonald and Fiach Kelly

Published 01/11/2010 | 05:00

THE wife of Labour leader Eamon Gilmore was paid €525,000 by the Department of Education for a site for a new school that is now worth less than €100,000.

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Educationalist Carol Hanney, who is chief executive of Dun Laoghaire VEC, sold the two-and-a-half acre site she inherited from her late mother to the Office of Public Works on behalf of the Department of Education.

Yesterday the site of the proposed new school in Killimor, Co Galway, was untouched and in the same state as it was when sold almost five years ago.

Mr Gilmore refused to comment directly on the sale last night. A spokesman for the Labour leader would only say the money belonged to his wife, and not to Mr Gilmore. "She is a private citizen and it is her money, not his," he said.

The revelation could prove embarrassing for the Labour leader amid growing criticisms of how the State paid inflated prices for school sites around the country during the property boom.

His own deputy leader -- finance spokeswoman Joan Burton -- last year hit out at "property tycoons" who made "a mountain of money" from selling school sites.

Mr Gilmore yesterday criticised proposed education cutbacks in December's Budget and said his party would be "very slow" to increase college registration fees.

"Education is something we have to see as an investment," Mr Gilmore told RTE Radio.

His wife completed the sale of the land for a new national school in Killimor in 2007.

It was purchased by the Office of Public Works on behalf of the Department of Education following a formal valuation.

Galway auctioneer and former county councillor Michael Regan, who represented the Killimor area for more than 20 years, said the most the property could hope to sell for today would be somewhere between €50,000 and €100,000.

He said it would be "at the high end" to value it now at €100,000.

Mr Regan was also critical of the process that surrounded the purchase of property for state and school projects.

And it emerged yesterday that the site -- located on the Loughrea side of Killimor village -- was not even the preferred initial location for the national school.

Sources confirmed to the Irish Independent that land owned by the parish of Killimor at the opposite end of the village had been the first option for the school.

The site was sold by Ms Hanney in response to a public advertisement for land to build the new school.

The old school was built in 1964 but has long since outgrown its usefulness.

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.

Efforts to tackle the problem began in the early 1990s.

Unsuitable

Officials at the Department of Education deemed the school location on a busy road to be unsuitable for an extension and decided a new school was required.

The project for a new school limped its way through the building programme until 2007. It was by then on its third design and the go-ahead was given to put the project out to tender.

Some weeks later, the board of management received a letter from the department stating that, after a reassessment, it would be getting an eight-classroom school using a new design.

By 2008, Killimor NS was top of the department's priority list for schools.

Everything was in place to start construction, but within weeks the department suspended the project.

It has now slumped closer to the bottom of the list and is one of 350 schools vying for funds in a lower category.

Speaking to the Irish Independent last December, principal Gerard Murray said he could not understand how a priority project could be simply "wiped out" at the stroke of a pen.

"We are not one bit nearer having a new school than we were 14 years ago," he said.

Fine Gael TD Ulick Burke, who raised the issue in the Dail, said there was no justification for the delay.

Irish Independent

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