Saturday 25 January 2020

Ghost estate containing council chief's home got €20k upgrade

Tim Caffrey: rented his home
Tim Caffrey: rented his home

Michael Brennan

THE estate where a county manager's controversial house is located benefited from a €20,000 taxpayer-funded grant to take it out of 'ghost estate' status.

Longford County Manager Tim Caffrey has been in the spotlight after it emerged that a €250,000 state grant had been approved to buy his house in Clondra in Longford for people with intellectual disabilities.

The deal later collapsed after the voluntary housing body involved said that it was no longer suitable for its needs.

But it has also emerged that Longford County Council received a grant of €20,000 two years ago to complete works in the Mill Estate where Mr Caffrey's house is located.

It was one of 20 'ghost estates' in the county that received funds from the Department of the Environment.

The Mill estate had been exempt from the €100 household charge but after the works were completed, the estate's status was officially upgraded and it did not qualify for an exemption from the property tax.

Mr Caffrey had bought his house there in 2008 with a mortgage from Bank of Ireland and had been living in it until he started renting it to the Muiriosa Foundation – a voluntary housing body which looks after people with intellectual disabilities.

APPLICATION

He has insisted that he had "no direct involvement" in the process where the Muiriosa Foundation applied for a €250,000 state grant to buy the house to accommodate two people with intellectual disabilities. The asking price was also increased by €14,000 to €259,000 just days after a voluntary housing body had submitted paperwork seeking a grant for the same amount.

Mr Caffrey did not respond to questions from the Irish Independent about the collapsed deal, or the obtaining of funding to finish works in the Mill Estate. A spokeswoman said he was not adding to his statement earlier in the week, when he said that he had immediately declared his ownership of the house when the foundation actually applied for the grant to purchase the house.

Environment Minister Phil Hogan, who has expressed concern about the revelations, has now written to Longford County Mayor Cllr Larry Bannon.

"I'm sure you will agree that it is critical... that an issue of this kind is addressed fully and as quickly as possible," he wrote.

Mr Hogan referred to the decision of councillors to refer the issue to the Standards in Public Office Commission and the local Government auditor at an informal meeting.

He placed the responsibility firmly back on them to discuss the matter again at a full council meeting.

Irish Independent

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