Labour Party leader Eamon Gilmore's wife sold her two-and-a-half acre school site in east Galway to the state for the price which the OPW's own valuer had placed on the land, the Sunday Tribune has established.
Amid significant criticism of the "boomtime" price of €525,000 for the site at Killimor, a spokesman for the OPW – which acted as an agent for the Department of Education in relation to the sale – confirmed on Friday that the amount Carol Hanney received was the same as its own valuation.
It had previously described the agreed price as "reasonable", but did not say what the actual valuation placed on the land by its valuer was.
As revealed in this newspaper last week, Hanney agreed the sale for €525,000 in 2006 and the deal was completed in June 2007. She is chief executive of Dun Laoghaire VEC and inherited the land from her late mother. Gilmore has since confirmed that Hanney received €10,000 for a smaller adjoining site for use as a "hurling pitch", which he said followed an approach from the local parish priest.
The OPW spokesman said it acted "on certain matters" as agents on behalf of a client department or office when requested. "The commissioners of public works acted as agent on a number of occasions for the Department of Education and Skills on school sites. The monies expended are Department of Education and Skills voted monies… The OPW's valuer valued the site at €525,000." A spokesman for the department said it was "normal practice" to request the OPW to purchase the site on its behalf during that period.
"In general the department has, until the establishment of the site acquisitions and property management section in 2008, relied primarily on the property management section of the OPW to purchase sites where required for education purposes."
Asked about the controversy on RTÉ radio last week, Gilmore said his wife was entitled to do "as she saw fit" with the land, and denied that media coverage of the sale was embarrassing.
He also denied there was an earlier agreement in principle between his wife and the school's board of management to sell the land, although conditional planning approval was granted by Galway County Council for a six- classroom new national school in Killimor in 2003.