highest standards | 

Politicians must prove they are acting ‘above board,’ new Junior Minister declares

Neale Richmond is taking over a role vacated by Damien English, who resigned last week after failing to declare he already owned property when applying for planning permission 14 years ago.

Neale Richmond has been promoted to junior minister in the Department of Enterprise. Photo: Tom Burke

Maeve McTaggartSunday World

Politicians need to take responsibility and prove to citizens that they are acting “above board,” says newly appointed Minister of State Neale Richmond.

The Dublin Rathdown TD has taken over the role vacated by Damien English last week, who resigned for failing to declare he owned a property when he submitted an application for planning permission in 2008.

"It's very unfortunate ... but he acted quickly and it was fairly clear what he had to do,” his successor Richmond told Newstalk’s On the Record. "It was a real shame.”

"This is another challenge to all of us in politics, to show that we hold ourselves to the highest standards and will continue to do so."

Mr Richmond says he is not worried that the same thing will happen to him, admitting: “I don’t really have any interests, to be honest.

"I've never applied for planning permission, I've never owned a property other than my home."

Mr English’s resignation comes after a similar controversy involving former Fianna Fáil Minister of State Robert Troy.

Mr Troy had failed to declare the full extent of his property portfolio and business dealings.

The new Minister of State said both resignations "haven't come about in the right way and have certainly been very disappointing", but that it is not part of a broader trend.

"Resignations from government do happen a lot around the world,” he said.

"It shows that there is accountability, which I think is important, but certainly I take it fully, quite clearly, that it does present a challenge.

"It does throw the responsibility on politicians to demonstrate that everything is clear and above board."

Mr English said he informed the Taoiseach on Wednesday night of his decision to resign as a Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment.

“Yesterday in an online article, questions were raised about my planning application from 14 years ago. I reviewed this application, made in 2008, and it is clear to me that I failed to inform Meath County Council about ownership of my house in Castlemartin,” he said in a statement.

“This was wrong, not up to the standard required and I apologise for doing so.

“I would like to thank the people of Meath West for their ongoing support as their TD. I will continue to serve them and work hard on their behalf in the constituency.

“I thank the Taoiseach and parliamentary colleagues for their support during my time as Minister of State. I will continue to support the Taoiseach and colleagues in Government as they continue to deliver on the programme for Government.

"I would like to recognise the support and sacrifice of Laura and my family at all times.”

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