GOVERNMENT ministers have refused to say whether they own a holiday home or second home under a little-known loophole governing members' property interests.

Members of the Dáil and Seanad are obliged to make a yearly declaration of what they own, including any property or investments.

However, it has emerged that holiday homes in Ireland and abroad do not have to be declared. TDs and senators do not have to list a house they use for official business in Dublin either.

At least one minister is believed to have a home overseas which, because of the loophole, did not have to be declared. According to correspondence obtained by the Sunday Tribune from a query made to the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission, the home is not eligible for inclusion on the register of interests unless it is rented out.

"The advice given to members is that a holiday home is not declarable as it can be deemed a private residence that is used for amenity and recreation. Now if it is rented out, that puts it into a different category but unless the annual rent exceeds €2,600, it may not have to be declared. There is a distinction between lands and property that are held for recreational or amenity purposes and those that are held for commercial reasons."

The Sunday Tribune contacted each of the government departments to ask whether the minister or junior ministers owned property that was not on the register of interests.

We also asked whether the minister had paid their €200 tax on any second properties and whether this duty should be extended to overseas houses. Only one department – that of Minister Pat Carey at Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs – answered the question directly.

A spokesman for Carey said: "The minister... does not own a second home. He is fully compliant with Standards in Public Office Commission and related obligations."

Minister John Gormley's spokesman John Downing said: "Checked with minister. He is fully compliant with all SIPOC and related obligations."