Gilmore's wife got €10,000 for second site
Locals used raffle cash to bargain for school 'add-on'
Published 02/11/2010 | 05:00
THE wife of Labour leader Eamon Gilmore was paid €10,000 earlier this year for a small parcel of land next to a site for which she had already received €525,000 from the State.
The additional €10,000 paid to educationalist Carol Hanney came from local fundraisers for a new school in Killimor, Co Galway, the Irish Independent has learned.
The money was raised over a decade through initiatives such as raffle ticket and cake sales, as well as a scheme where locals "sponsored" a brick in the new school for IR£20.
Locals have revealed they "bargained" with Ms Hanney this spring to agree the figure of €10,000 for the small parcel of land. The half-acre add-on came three years after she completed a deal for the original two-and-half-acre site for €525,000 with the Office of Public Works (OPW), acting on behalf of the Department of Education.
The Irish Independent yesterday revealed that the site was now valued somewhere between €50,000 and €100,000 because of the collapse in property and land prices.
It is currently untouched and is in the same condition as it was when Ms Hanney completed the €525,000 sale.
Killimor parish priest Fr Ciaran Kitching said locals determined that the original site was not big enough to accommodate a playground and a hurling pitch beside the school and that it needed to be expanded.
The local school committee decided it was pointless to go back to the Department of Education to ask for more money because of cutbacks and Fr Kitching said they instead dipped into money raised over the past decade.
When Fr Kitching was asked if Ms Hanney had requested a higher price, he said there was "bargaining".
He had dealt with Ms Hanney personally in negotiating the land sale and described her as a "very pleasant person". He said the add-on was needed because the Department of Education had only provided a small site.
"There is a standard size for a certain school population and we were given the standard site," he said.
Fr Kitching said people in Killimor were "delighted" with the second strip of land bought from Ms Hanney.
However, other locals, who did not wish to be named, said there was some unease in paying the €10,000 after the department had already forked out €525,000.
The controversy 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 -- hit out last year at "property tycoons" who made "a mountain of money" from selling school sites.
The site -- located on the Loughrea side of Killimor village -- was not even the preferred initial location for the national school, according to local sources.
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, but the entire bill was taken over by the Department of the Education.
Local sources said they asked people to sponsor bricks of the new school for IR£20, and raised thousands doing so. Other fundraising schemes -- such as raffles and cake sales -- also went toward the new school.
The fundraising committee's account is understood to have a balance of more than €30,000, down from more than €40,000, after the €10,000 given to Ms Hanney was taken out. It is understood it was the first time money had been taken from the fund.
Ms Hanney, who is chief executive of Dun Laoghaire VEC, sold both pieces of land from a larger site she inherited from her late mother. The Dun Laoghaire VEC has a staff of 500, and a multi-million euro budget that caters for more than 2,500 pupils.
There are 33 VECs around the country and chief executives can earn up to €146,000. Mr Gilmore, a TD for the Dun Laoghaire constituency, earns around €98,000. A spokesman for Mr Gilmore said yesterday that he had no comment to make. "Eamon has nothing to add to it," he said.
The spokesman added that he did not speak on behalf on Ms Hanney and could not pass on queries to her.
"I don't act on behalf of Carol Hanney. I can't help you."