HAP-py holidays | 

Fine Gael councillor who earned €60k last year gets HAP for his two-bedroom apartment

Councillor Brian Lawlor, who is understood to have just returned from a three-week holiday to Australia, refused to comment on the matter and said “don’t ever ring me again” when contacted by the Sunday World for comment this week.

Brian Lawlor

Cllr Brian Lawlor appeared in promotional videos and photos for Scientology

Cllr Brian Lawlor appeared in promotional videos and photos for the Scientology cult

Cllr Brian Lawlor help promote Scientology

Alan SherrySunday World

A Fine Gael politician who received over €60,000 in income and expenses last year and has been on three foreign holidays this year, has also been receiving the taxpayer-funded Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) for his two bedroom south Dublin apartment.

Councillor Brian Lawlor, who is understood to have just returned from a three-week holiday to Australia, refused to comment on the matter and said “don’t ever ring me again” when contacted by the Sunday World for comment this week.

The Fine Gael politician, who sits on South Dublin County Council’s strategic housing committee which advises the council on its housing policy, is understood to have been receipt of the HAP payment for a number of years despite his high earnings.

Sources said he paid around €50 a week last year towards rent for the apartment in Beechdale Court in Ballycullen with the rest subsidised by taxpayers through HAP.

A neighbouring two-bed apartment in the same development was listed for €1,437 last month.

The Sunday World understands Cllr Lawlor (53) has been in receipt of HAP for a number of years up to and including this year but he declined to answer whether he was still on the scheme this week.

Cllr Brian Lawlor help promote Scientology

Publicly available data on the SDCC website shows that Cllr Lawlor was in receipt of €39.911.11 in payments from his work as a councillor last year. Some €7,130.48 of this figure was vouched expenses, training costs and costs for attending conferences claimed by Cllr Lawlor which were all tax free.

The remaining €32,780.63 was made up of his monthly allowance, representative payments, area committee payments and a €7,500 tax-free payment for being the chairman of a strategic policy committee.

Several of the allowances paid to councillors are tax free – so it is understood that only around €24,000 of the €39,911.11 was taxable income.

He also works part-time as a driver in Dublin Bus and is understood to earn between €20,000 to €25,000 a year bringing his total income last year to over €60,000 or around €53,000 if vouched expenses claimed from the council are discounted. His net wage would be higher than other people on that figure due to the tax-free payments he received from the council.

A CSO report published in 2019 said that the median income for people on the HAP scheme over the previous year was €13,816 nationally and €15,550 in the South Dublin County Council area – a fraction of Cllr Lawlor’s income.

The Sunday World contacted Cllr Lawlor this week to say we understood he was on the HAP scheme for the last number of years and his income last year was over €60,000. When we asked him if he considered his income to be a bit high for someone receiving the taxpayer subsidy, he replied: “I can’t make a comment on this ... so please contact my solicitor.”

When we pointed out that his council income was publicly available on the SDCC website he repeated that he could not comment a number of times.

After repeated questioning, he said: “Don’t ever ring me again.”

In 2020 Cllr Lawlor received €33,268.32 in payments from the council. He received €34,094.95 in 2019, €34,573.98 in 2018 and €29,108.62 in 2017. He was also receiving a wage from Dublin Bus, understood to be around €20,000 annually, on top of his council payments and is understood to have been in receipt of HAP over these years.

Sources said Cllr Lawlor has been on a number of foreign holidays this year including two trips to Spain and his recent almost three-week long trip to Australia with his partner Emer Higgins who is a Fine Gael TD and owns her own property in Lucan, Dublin.

SDCC spent €72m on rent subsidies in 2019, €81m in 2020 and €95m last year. It is projected to spend in excess of €100m this year.

A number of Cllr Lawlor’s fellow councillors on SDCC have been vocal critics of the HAP scheme saying it is putting more pressure on the rental sector and arguing the State would be far better off building social housing rather than giving money to landlords.

During a council meeting 2018 Cllr Dermot Looney said the HAP payments for the area would cover the building of hundreds of council homes while Cllr Ruth Nolan said HAP was a “complete and utter drain on the state”.

At the meeting, Emer Higgins, who was a councillor at the time, argued that HAP was “not a subsidisation of private landlords” by the Government while Cllr Lawlor said that the number of people on HAP in the SDCC area was so high because of the low differential rent of 10 per cent.

The Sunday World contacted South Dublin County Council to ask them if it was usual for people with an income as high as Cllr Lawlor to be in receipt of HAP and how many individuals earning over €50,000 a year were receiving HAP in the council’s area.

Cllr Brian Lawlor appeared in promotional videos and photos for the Scientology cult

They said: “Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) support is available to households assessed and approved for social housing support by the Council.

“Where such households source accommodation through the HAP scheme, they are assessed for rent based on current household income, similar to standard social housing tenants.

“Any household income changes (increases or decreases) are required to be notified to the Council in order for the rent contribution to be re-calculated but, once approved, overall continued eligibility for the scheme is not affected by household income changes. The national HAP Shared Service operated by Limerick City and County Council, on behalf of all local authorities, is responsible for making all payments to landlords under HAP and for collecting the weekly rent from all HAP tenants.”

Cllr Lawlor hit the headlines earlier this year when the Sunday World revealed that he had appeared in a number of promotional Scientology videos despite being a vocal critic of the controversial group in the past when they opened a large community centre in his constituency.

Cllr Brian Lawlor appeared in promotional videos and photos for Scientology

Cllr Lawlor was involved in a number of community projects with Scientologists and appeared in official Scientology videos promoting their work.

He even wore Scientology branded clothing while posing for promotional pictures with the group while Scientologists wore Hi-Viz jackets promoting Cllr Lawlor.

When contacted for comment at the time he told the Sunday World that he did not support the group and described them as a cult. He said he would ask them not to feature him in any further videos.

Former Scientologist Pete Griffiths, who is now a vocal critic of the organisation, told the Sunday World that the group were using Cllr Lawlor in videos to give their group legitimacy with locals.

“Cllr Lawlor acted like a stooge and they were using him as a stooge without or without his knowledge. They’re using his credibility to give them credibility in the eyes of the public. I used to run a Scientology organisation so I know that is exactly what you’re supposed to do.”


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