Niall Collins knew his wife had interest in council site when he sat at local authority meeting
• Yesterday 14:33
Fianna Fáil junior minister Niall Collins has confirmed he knew his wife expressed interest in a piece of publicly owned land when he sat at a council meeting where it was agreed to put the site up for sale.
Facing questions on the long-running controversy for the first time, Mr Collins said he “absolutely” knew his wife wanted to buy the land in Limerick when his local area committee discussed plans to sell it.
However, the Limerick County TD said it is his “judgment” that he “did not break the law” despite legislation requiring local councillors to declare anything material to meetings and then recuse themselves.
But Mr Collins said “in hindsight” he should recused himself “given the perception that has arisen”.
He was answering questions for the first time since The Ditch website revealed that the then Limerick County Councillor sat at a meeting of the Bruff Electoral Area Committee which discussed selling land which Mr Collin’s wife Dr Eimear O’Connor expressed an interest in buying to the local authority a few weeks earlier.
Speaking at a press conference in Government Buildings, Mr Collins revealed his wife was initially going to buy the land with another buyer but that person pulled out of the deal and Dr O’Connor decided to go ahead with the purchase on her own.
Mr Collins said he did not take questions in the Dáil because he does not believe he should have to answer questions on issues related to his private life in the parliament.
“As ministers we’re accountable to the Dáil for our work as ministers and I don’t think any member of the Dáil and has to be accountable for their personal life, or certainly events that happened before they became members of the Dáil,” he said.
“That’s not what the Dáil is about. The Dáil is a legislative forum. It’s a parliament, and it’s about holding government to account,” he added.
He also addressed a previous controversy relating to the planning permission for his family home.
However, Mr Collins refused to say why he put his parent’s name on the planning application when it appeared he was no longer living there.
“What I’ve said is, and it’s the truth, I’m not prepared to get into a discussion, either privately or publicly, in relation to my personal living circumstances at that point in time, and I think you have to respect that and it’s up to people to make their own judgment in relation to that,” he said.
He also addressed questions on why one of his planning files referenced a ‘Niall O’Connor’ rather than Niall Collins.
“I outlined quite clearly in my statement in relation to that, that the planning application was made in my name, that the newspaper advertisement was in my name, that the site notice was in my name that the planning permission was issued to my name so where this Niall O’Connor came out of I am at a loss,” he said