‘No law was broken,’ junior minister Niall Collins insists as he addresses Dáil

Minister of State for Skills and Further Education was defending role in wife’s purchase of property from Limerick County Council in 2008

TD Niall Collins has addressed the Dáil in relation to the purchase of a vacant site in Co Limerick by his wife in 2008. Video: Oireachtas TV

Junior minister Niall Collins has said that “no law was broken” in relation to his wife’s purchase of a property from Limerick County Council in 2008.

Mr Collins, who is Minister of State for Skills and Further Education, addressed the Dáil for a second time in recent weeks on Thursday while there was no questions and answers session allowed for Opposition parties.

The Limerick TD said that in hindsight and given the focus and “perception among some” it would have been better had he not participated in a local area committee meeting in January 2007 “even though it is absolutely clear that my wife did not benefit in any way” from his attendance.

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The Ditch website first reported that Mr Collins was part of a local area committee of the council that recommended disposal of the property in 2007 when he was a member of the local authority.


After an open market process that concluded after he had ceased to be a member of the authority, the property was bought by his wife, who had previously approached the council about selling.

Mr Collins has been sharply criticised for his apparent failure to declare his wife’s interest in buying the property or recuse himself from the local committee’s recommendation.

In his statement to the chamber, Mr Collins said that he was “in absolutely no doubt” that his actions regarding the sale by the council of land in Patrickswell were “at all times legally correct”.

He said he was a councillor on Limerick County Council until May of 2007 when he was then elected to Dáil Éireann. The Fianna Fáil TD said the potential sale of the property on Main Street was brought to the Bruff Area Committee meeting by the council executive in January 2007, which he attended.

Mr Collins said there were various expressions of interest by members of the public in the property and that one of those came from Dr Eimear O’Connor, “who is also my wife”.

He said it was agreed at the area committee meeting that the property should be sold on the open market and there was No vote taken and no disagreement to the proposal by the council executive.

“It is important to state that an area committee of a local authority, which in the case of the Bruff Area Committee included only seven councillors, does not have disposal rights in regard to the sale of council property,” he said.

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“This is a reserved and statutory function of the full county council by law.”

Mr Collins said subsequently the council’s executive appointed an independent auctioneer as its agent to conduct a sale of the property on the open market and to sell the site subject to outline planning permission being granted.

“The property was then marketed for sale by the auctioneer including advertisements in the local newspaper inviting offers for the property,” he said.

Mr Collins said he had seen the documents released by Limerick County Council under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act and it would appear that a number of offers were received through the auctioneer over a period of at least six months “ranging from €110,000 to €125,000 and then ultimately a final offer of €148,000″.

He said at a full meeting of the council on September 22nd, 2008, the local authority approved the sale for €148,000 to the highest bidder, which was his wife Dr O’Connor.

Mr Collins added that before the disposal of the property in September 2008, his wife submitted an application for planning permission in December of 2007 to build a two-storey building, comprising of a ground floor medical centre and first floor offices.

He said the council granted conditional permission for the development in June 2008 and the sale of the land for €148,000 was approved at a council meeting in September of that year.

“When the council executive recommended to the Bruff Area Committee that the property should be put up for sale in January 2007 neither I nor my wife had any pecuniary or beneficial interest in that property,” he said.

“In hindsight and given the focus and perception among some that has arisen in 2023, some 15 years later, it would have been better had I not participated in the local area committee meeting in January of 2007 even though it is absolutely clear that my wife did not benefit in any way from my attendance at the January 2007 meeting.

“However, when I did attend it was my full understanding, and it remains the same today that I was not participating in a discussion or a decision that in any way contravened the 2001 Local Government Act. No law was broken.

“I did not participate in any decision that authorised the sale of this land. This could only be done by the full County Council in accordance with the statutory process. This occurred more than 18 months later when I was no longer a member of Limerick County Council.”

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns is a reporter for The Irish Times