A bewildering turn of events for parishioners
TO his parishioners, Fr Tadhg O'Donovan is a friendly curate, a great community worker and a tireless development campaigner.
But what few guessed in either the quiet Cloyne parishes of Araglin or Whitechurch in Cork was that the Mallow-born curate had interests in 13 different properties around Munster. His property portfolio is conservatively estimated to be worth millions.
Fr O'Donovan under-declared his income from some of those properties over a number of years.
This is despite the fact that part of the money he made from rent came in the form of Rental Supplement payments from the Health Service Executive (HSE) -- a sister service to the Revenue Commissioners.
The curate failed to fully reveal the rental income for tax purposes for a period between 1998 and 2002.
Fr O'Donovan ultimately pleaded guilty in court to a total of 10 charges relating to his tax affairs before Cork District Court in March 2008. The curate made an initial payment of €20,818 to the Revenue Commissioners in 2004 -- and in February 2008 issued a cheque for €192,404 to Revenue in settlement of his tax obligations, bringing the settlement to €213,222.
The €213,222 was comprised of €81,265 in tax, €81,265 in penalties and €50,682 in interest.
However, his final settlement with the Revenue Commissioners last Tuesday proved to be more than double the figure originally outlined in court.
For parishioners, it was a bewildering turn of events.
"I couldn't believe it when I first heard, to be honest. He's a very down-to-earth fella -- sure he drives an ordinary car just like the rest of us," one Whitechurch man admitted.
But, put in stark context, Fr O'Donovan's personal tax settlement of €433,000 is more than 14 times the average salary enjoyed by most ordinary priests.
The Church stressed that tax affairs were the still responsibility of individual clerics. "The Church believes priests, like anyone else, should pay taxes according to their means," a spokesman said.