Republic of Ireland news

Coalition saw Robert Troy controversy as ‘significant issue' – Green Party minister

Robert Troy, the Fianna Fáil TD for Longford and Westmeath. Picture by Brendan Lyon/ImageBureau
Michelle Devane and Gráinne Ní Aodha, PA

The Republic of Ireland’s Minister for Children has said Robert Troy made the right decision to resign as a junior minister in light of “a significant number” of errors in declaring his properties on the Irish parliament’s register of interests.

Mr Troy, the minister of state with responsibility for trade promotion, digital and company regulation, has been coming under pressure in recent weeks after admitting he had not declared correctly several properties he owned on the Dail register of members’ interests.

Speaking to RTÉ, Green Party minister Roderic O’Gorman said Mr Troy “made the right decision in terms of offering his resignation yesterday”.

“And whereas Robert’s been very clear that they were genuine mistakes, I think he saw the fact that this was going to be a focus over the next number of weeks, particularly in advance of him coming into the Dail and giving a statement.

“And (it is) at a time when we’re preparing for a budget, at a time when there are major political issues that the government has to address.”

When asked why Mr Troy decided to resign, Mr O’Gorman said: “I don’t know. I wasn’t speaking to Robert yesterday. From his statement, my sense is he doesn’t want to distract from the work of government.”

It comes after the Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald questioned Taoiseach Micheal Martin’s and Tanaiste Leo Varadkar’s judgement in supporting Mr Troy during the controversy, saying that his resignation was “inevitable”.

“Robert was a good minister, is a very good colleague,” Mr O’Gorman said today.

“But I think it was the right decision in terms of the serious issues that government have to address in the budget, in terms of cost of living and other issues.”

He added: “I think everyone in the coalition recognised that this was a significant issue.

“Any time there has been a controversy surrounding a minister, in this government or in previous governments, generally ministers are given that opportunity to speak before Dáil Eireann.

“Earlier last week, there was a desire to give Robert that opportunity. And, as I say, further information came out earlier this week, and I think Robert himself recognised that the ongoing political focus on this would be a distraction.”

Mr Troy described the last 10 days as “extremely difficult”, and thanked Taoiseach Micheál Martin, Tanaiste Leo Varadkar and colleagues who had shown their support.

In a statement issued late last night, the Longford-Westmeath TD said he had not tried to conceal anything, adding “my biggest offence is my lack of due diligence”.

Last week he confirmed he had to make seven amendments to the Dáil register.

The Standards in Public Office Commission (Sipo) and the Dáil Committee on Parliamentary Privileges and Oversight are being urged to investigate matters related to his property interests.

Ms McDonald said of the political controversy: “As each day passed, further revelations about Minister Troy’s behaviour as a landlord came into the public domain.

“Properties that had failed to be registered with the Residential Tenancies Board, a property without fire certification, RAS arrangements not declared in the Dail register, other interests not properly declared, and the list went on.

“Throughout this period both the Taoiseach and the Tanaiste offered their full support, describing Robert Troy as a ‘first-class minister’.”

She added that yesterday’s “inevitable” resignation by Mr Troy “casts very serious questions on their judgment and those are questions that will not go away as a result of this action”.

Ms McDonald tweeted: “Disastrous government housing policy will not change simply with the exit of one minister. We need to see the back of the whole government.”

Aontu TD Peadar Toibin called on changes to be made to ensure there are consequences for inaccurate declarations.

“There must be consequences and accountability for actions within the political system for there to be a change of culture.

“I believe there was a reluctance on behalf of Micheal Martin and the Tanaiste to do anything on this as there is a fear that there may be other FF and FG TDs who are landlords who have not declared their interests and assets clearly.

“Each political party should carry out an audit of their TDs, make sure they are compliant and make it public.

“The law needs to be changed also. Conflicts of interests must be declared. Liabilities or debts should be disclosed. There must be a penalty for non-compliance and inaccurate declarations. SIPO should also have the ability to investigate breeches in ethics rules by former TDs and Senators.”

A spokesman for Mr Martin said yesterday that it was “with regret that the Taoiseach has accepted the resignation of Minister of State Robert Troy”.

He described Mr Troy as a “very committed, hardworking and efficient” junior minister whose “dedication to his work has been beyond question”.

“The minister clearly acknowledged that he made serious errors in relation to his declarations to the register of members’ interests, and he sincerely apologised for this,” the spokesman said.