By Cate McCurry, PA
Minister of State Robert Troy has defended his decision to use Dáil speaking time to call for more funding for a State-backed scheme from which he benefits.
The Fianna Fáil TD said he earns €780 per month under the Rental Accommodation Scheme (RAS) for a two-bedroom townhouse he rents out in Mullingar.
It is one of two properties he has leased to Westmeath County Council under the RAS agreement during his time as a TD.
He said the other rental contract started in August 2011 and ended in 2018 when he sold the property to the council.
The TD has been at the centre of a controversy in recent weeks after he failed to declare all details of his properties to the Dáil register of members’ interests.
During a Dáil debate in 2014, Mr Troy spoke about an increase in funding for the rental scheme.
On Tuesday, Mr Troy said it was a debate on the Housing Miscellaneous Bill.
“I took the opportunity to speak on a range of issues, the tenant purchase scheme, antisocial behaviour, domestic abuse,” he added.
“At that time, I had two RAS schemes. At the time, I didn’t think I had to declare the RAS on the members’ interests.
“If I felt that it was a conflict of interest, I would have declared it. If I felt that the RAS agreement should have been on the members’ interests of course, naturally I would have said that.
“I didn’t feel it had to be declared under members’ interests. The reason being that I felt the contract was between me and the tenant.”
He said he understood RAS operated similarly to the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) in that he does not have to declare it to the members’ interests.
The junior Minister said that of his nine rental properties, five of them are under the HAP scheme.
He also said he rang the Standards In Public Office Commission (Sipo) to confirm whether he needs to declare he is in receipt of RAS. He told RTÉ News At One that Sipo claimed they could not say “with clarity” whether it had to be declared.
“They said that they would need to see the contract and the reason why is that was because a similar scheme does not need to be declared,” Mr Troy added.
“They wanted to see the contract and in the avoidance of wasting time, I included it. I include on my amended statements.”
He added: “The maximum that I ever had with the local authority under an RAS agreement was two.
“I want to be clear. I do have another agreement, which is the HAP payment, which I’ve five properties under.
“But HAP is not required to be declared on the members’ interest form but I do have HAP for five properties at the moment.”