The Irish Times view on the resignation of Damien English

The junior minister’s resignation was inevitable once the facts emerged and has dealt another blow to trust in politics

The public need to be confident that politicians obey the rules that are there for everyone. Therefore, once it emerged that Damien English had incorrectly filled out a planning application form for a bungalow he was building, his resignation was inevitable. Having seen Government colleague Robert Troy vainly try to resist pressure last year after it emerged that he had not fully declared his property interests on the Dáil register, English made the correct decision to tender his resignation immediately. The Taoiseach and Tánaiste both made it clear that they believed resignation was appropriate.

The events in question date back 14 years to 2008, when English, who already owned a home in the area, and his wife were seeking planning permission to build a new house in a rural part of Meath. Local development rules stipulated that to be granted permission for once-off housing, applicants should not already own a property. That English did not declare his ownership of the house was thus more than an administrative oversight; the omission was material to the council’s decision to grant permission. English was judged to meet the required regulations and the new house was built.

English’s swift decision to resign has probably taken a lot of the political heat out of the affair. The key facts having emerged, it is not clear whether there is a further role for Sipo, though People Before Profit TD Paul Murphy is pursuing a complaint to it. Whatever the outcome of this, the public will wonder how active Sipo is in monitoring standards and whether its rules are sufficiently strict to ensure all relevant information is declared.

There will be some sympathy for English, a hard-working junior minister who resigned quickly. But the affair chips away at public trust in politics and again raises the question of the overseeing of standards in public life. English’s statement that he “reviewed” his planning application following questions submitted on the issue and publication by The Ditch rings a bit hollow. You don’t just forget that you own a house.