Gilmore's wife used developer interest to push up price of site
THE wife of Labour leader Eamon Gilmore used a land valuation which said "a list" of housing developers would want to buy a site she owned when she was bargaining to sell the land for a school.
The 2005 valuation -- which said the site was in an area "in demand by property developers and individuals for residential development" -- priced the site at €525,000. Educationalist Carol Hanney was subsequently paid that price by the State.
Ms Hanney had agreed to sell the land in Killimor, Co Galway, for just €142,000 as late as February 2005. But a valuation submitted to the Office of Public Works in September 2005 by Ms Hanney, the head of Dun Laoghaire VEC, said she would get a "considerable price" if she was to sell it to developers.
The school has yet to be built and the latest details are contained in documents released to the Irish Independent under the Freedom of Information Act.
The valuation, which was also submitted to the Department of Education on Ms Hanney's behalf, added:
- That Killimor, a town with a population of 1,450, is "at present an area in demand by property developers and individuals for residential development".
- That there is "a list of developers who would purchase this land for mixed residential development".
- The land would be "sought for development on the open market".
The Department of Education separately valued the land at €500,000 and officials described Ms Hanney's price as "reasonable".
After both valuations, the department then asked if Ms Hanney would sell for the €142,000 already agreed but she refused to do so.
But the details of her valuation are likely to embarrass Mr Gilmore, who has been consistently scathing about spiralling land prices and developer-led planning during the boom.
He proposed a cap on the price of building land when he was Labour's environment spokesman in 2003 and said it was essential to controlling house prices.
His party has been particularly critical of the State paying over the odds for school sites, with deputy leader Joan Burton hitting out last year at "property tycoons" who made "a mountain of money" from school sites in her own constituency.
The Irish Independent last month reported about the land price inflation and how Ms Hanney was paid an extra €10,000 by locals looking to extend the two-and-a-half-acre site to accommodate a hurling pitch and playground. The €10,000 came from a fundraising kitty.
The valuation also cited the fact that planning permission had already been granted for a school and this was a factor in arriving at the €525,000 price.
The original permission was granted in 2003 on the basis that Ms Hanney had agreed to sell the site in principle to the school's board of management.
She had already agreed to sell the land to the school for IR£85,000 (€107,927) in 2000, but by February 2005, she asked the school's board of management to increase the price to €142,348. Ms Hanney's site was not the locals' first choice, and they were angry when it was selected.