Gardaí examine allegations related to Niall Collins’s role in Limerick land deal

Presumption of innocence applies to complaints made to gardaí, says Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin

Gardaí are examining allegations made against Minister of State Niall Collins regarding a land deal which involved his wife purchasing a plot from Limerick County Council in 2007.

The land sale, first reported by the investigative website The Ditch, has generated a lasting political controversy for Mr Collins, who attended a meeting of the Bruff local electoral area committee in January 2007 which discussed the land, located in the village of Patrickswell.

No criminal investigation is under way, the force said.

Asked on Wednesday if Mr Collins’s position would be tenable if anything came of the Garda investigation, Tánaiste and Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said that any person can make a complaint against any other person to the Garda.

READ MORE

“Whether there’s a basis for such complaints, that’s a matter for the gardaí to determine. In our country and in our democracy, people are innocent until proven otherwise, and that has to remain the fundamental principle underlining any such complaints that are sent in by anybody to the gardaí in any location,” he said.

The plot was later sold in 2008 to Dr Eimear O’Connor, who is Mr Collins’s wife, after he was elected as a TD for Limerick County, a seat he has held since. Now the Garda is carrying out a scoping exercise, following an anonymous complaint.

Mr Collins has said he should have recused himself from the meeting and that he knew his wife was interested in buying the land – but maintained this week that he had not broken the law.

A Garda spokeswoman said it was carrying out an assessment to examine whether there had been any criminality involved in respect of certain matters related to alleged breaches of the Local Government Act, 2001, in the Southern Garda Region.

The spokeswoman said it was not a criminal investigation at this time. It is understood the complaint came in anonymously via a voice message on the Garda confidential line. The Garda is effectively conducting a preliminary scoping exercise to determine if a criminal investigation should follow.

When asked for comment, People Before Profit TD Paul Murphy, who has raised the matter with the Standards in Public Office Commission (Sipo), said: “I hope that the Gardai complete their investigation quickly. I would encourage them to take note of Minister Collins’ answers to the media yesterday where he admitted for the first time that he was aware his wife had expressed interest in the land at the time he participated in the Council decision to put it up for sale.”

When asked if he had complained to gardaí about the matter, Deputy Murphy replied: “No, I haven’t contacted the Gardaí about it.”

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones is a political reporter with The Irish Times

Conor Lally

Conor Lally

Conor Lally is Security and Crime Editor of The Irish Times