conflict of interest | 

Expert says politicians with property portfolios should not vote on housing policy

“Of course you can own your family home or business but in terms of owning multiple properties as landlords, I think there is a real question about whether that is appropriate for people who are making policy decisions.”

Robert Troy has resigned

Neil FetherstonhaughSunday World

One of the country’s leading housing experts has highlighted the conflict of interest posed by politicians who own multiple properties.

Speaking in the wake of the resignation of Robert Troy as minister of state last night, Professor Rory Hearne said politicians with property portfolios should not be allowed to vote on housing policy.

The professor of social studies and the author of the book ‘Shock Housing’, Mr Hearne told Newstalk Breakfast this morning that there is a “real issue” with politicians “treating housing as an investment rather than a home.”

“It is a potential conflict of interest when you’re making policy decisions and you are deciding on what housing policies to introduce while also benefitting from those policies,” he said.

“When you look at what Government has done - successive Governments over the last ten years in particular - I have made the point over and over that they have made policies largely in favour of what we call turning housing into an investment.

“In favour of landlords, in favour of investors and in favour of developers.”

He noted that former housing ministers Alan Kelly and Simon Coveney are both landlords and at least 80 TD and Senators have officially declared property interests.

However, he stopped short of calling for a blanket ban on TDs owning property portfolios – but questioned whether they should be allowed to vote on housing legislation.

“I do think there is a real issue around this conflict of interest of owning multiple properties,” he said.

“Maybe we need to look at clear decisions on housing policy. For example, legislation in relation to evictions, legislation in relation to rent caps; those TDs, should they be allowed to vote in that? Should they absent themselves?”

The housing expert was speaking after Robert Troy resigned his position as minister of state.

The Fianna Fáil TD was facing growing criticism over his failure to fully declare his property interests in the Dáil register.

The Longford-Westmeath representative owns and part-owns 11 properties around the country – nine of which are rented out.

In his resignation letter last night, he insisted he is “not a person of privilege and I have not been brought up with a silver spoon in my mouth.”

He said he bought his first house at the age of 20 and claimed he has “worked for all I have”.

Professor Hearne said the whole saga raises real questions over whether it is appropriate for elected representatives to be profiteering off housing.

“Is it appropriate for elected members to hold multiple properties?” he asked.

“Of course you can own your family home or business but in terms of owning multiple properties as landlords, I think there is a real question about whether that is appropriate for people who are making policy decisions.”

Dr Hearne said Irish politics needs to move away from seeing property as an investment asset.

“We have to lead from the top,” he said.

“Politicians should not be treating property as an investment and that’s where the real anger about Robert Troy is coming from.”

Deputy Troy resigned his junior ministerial position after the Green Party leader Eamon Ryan warned his failure to declare his properties to the Dáil "can’t be tolerated".

Minister Ryan has called for SIPO and the Oireachtas to investigate.


Today's Headlines

More Irish News

Download the Sunday World app

Now download the free app for all the latest Sunday World News, Crime, Irish Showbiz and Sport. Available on Apple and Android devices