Eamon Gilmore with his wife Carol Hanney: sold family land

THE wife of Labour Party leader Eamon Gilmore sold a two-and-a-half-acre school site in east Co Galway to the state for €525,000, the Sunday Tribune has learned.

Details of the transaction between the Office of Public Works and Carol Hanney, who is chief executive of Dun Laoghaire VEC, emerged after this newspaper revealed earlier this month that the Department of Education spent more than €190m on sites for schools between 2005 and 2009.

According to conservative estimates provided by property experts, the most the state should have expected to pay was €25m if advance school-planning had been properly designed.

A spokeswoman for the Office of Public works (OPW) confirmed it acted on behalf of the Department of Education in the purchase of a 2.5-acre school site for a national school in Killimor, which is close to Loughrea, from Hanney.

The sale, for €525,000, was agreed in 2006 and completed in June 2007.

"All sites purchased by the OPW on behalf of the Department of Education are subject to a valuation being carried out," the OPW spokeswoman said. "The commissioners' valuer inspected the site and advised that the agreed price was reasonable."

Gilmore told the Sunday Tribune he had "no involvement" in the sale process, but did not comment on the price achieved for the sale.

"[Carol] had been approached a number of years earlier by the board of management of the school, who were interested in the site because of its location in the village," he said. "The site was part of land surrounding the family home, which Carol inherited from her late mother. The site was sold in response to a public advertisement seeking land for the school. The price agreed was that for which the land was professionally valued at the time."

However, the revelation could prove embarrassing for Gilmore, amid serious concerns about the extent to which the state paid 'boomtime' prices for school sites around the country.

Among the other major beneficiaries of school-site land purchases between 2005 and 2009 were well-known property developers such as Joe O'Reilly of Castlethorn, Joe Moran's Manor Park homebuilders, and Séamus Ross of Menolly Homes.