Sunday, 6 May 2012

Chief Whip Kehoe altered 2011 Register of Interests

Government Chief Whip Paul ­Kehoe failed to declare rental income from a house he bought from Cabinet ­colleague Phil Hogan.

But junior minister Mr Kehoe retrospectively changed his Dáil Register of Interests to include the Dublin 4 house – days after this newspaper challenged him about the omission.

When the Irish Mail on Sunday quizzed him on April 14, he claimed he was not ­required to declare the property to the Dáil as it was his residence – even though, in fact, he has been renting out the house since last summer.

Failure to disclose an interest is an offence that can attract a maximum penalty of three years in jail or a €25,000 fine. Mr Kehoe is not required to register the house if he is using it as a residence when in Dublin – but is required to if he is renting it out.

Mr Kehoe bought the house from embattled Environment Minister Phil Hogan in June 2010.

Mr Kehoe, who sits at the Cabinet table with Fine Gael colleague Mr Hogan, made no mention of the house in leafy Dublin 4 in his original declaration for the Register of Members’ Interests for 2010 or 2011.

A spokesman for Mr Kehoe admitted this weekend that Mr Kehoe had, in fact, let the Dublin 4 property to a tenant last summer.

Mr Hogan bought the property in April 2004 with a loan from Irish Nationwide, the toxic building society that was run as a personal fiefdom by former chief executive Michael Fingleton until it collapsed, costing the taxpayer almost €5.5bn.

A mortgage from Irish Nationwide for €453,000 was registered against the house.

The man who sold the house to Mr Hogan now lives in Bermuda. The MoS spoke to him by phone earlier this month and asked the sale price.   

‘From my recollection that €453,000 euro would have been a pretty high loan on the property,’ the vendor said. ‘I sold it 

for more than that but not a lot more. But you could get 90% loans in 2004.’

He said he had never met or heard of Phil Hogan.

‘I have never heard the man’s name before,’ he said.

Mr Hogan, though he was not required to, recorded his ownership of the house as a residence in the Members’ Register.

Then, in 2008, Mr Hogan – a former estate agent and auctioneer with a practitioner’s knowledge of the market – put the house up for sale.

The 2008 auctioneers’ brochure advertises the property as ‘a superb townhouse in this brilliantly located period courtyard development.’

Mr Hogan reduced the asking price several times. It was put on the market in June 2008 for €625,000 but adverts on show he was soon asking just €575,000. Later it was on the books of Hamilton Osborne King guiding at just €549,000.

It clearly failed to attract a buyer, until Mr Kehoe agreed to buy it. In June 2010, Paul and Brigid Kehoe bought the house with a loan of undisclosed amount from EBS.  

The sale came at a busy time for the two politicians. That very month, Mr Hogan was one of the key allies who helped party leader Enda Kenny survive a leadership heave by Richard Bruton and his followers. Mr Kehoe also emerged as one of Mr Kenny’s supporters and was appointed Chief Whip after the election.  

It was also an unusual time to be buying a house in central Dublin as the property market collapsed.

Mr Kehoe and his wife Brigid became the owners of the property on June 8 2010. On the same day, Mr Hogan’s Irish Nationwide mortgage was removed cleared and a new EBS loan was registered at the Land Registry.

Mr Kehoe did not, however, list the house among his interests in the Dáil register for 2010 or 2011.

Each January TDs must disclose their  interests under Dáil rules for all or part of the previous year.

On April 14, the MoS spoke to Mr Kehoe about his property and he said he had not registered it. ‘I was using it as a residence,’ he said.

He had, in fact, according to what his spokesman said on Friday, rented the property in the summer of 2011 but he made no mention of this during his conversation with the MoS.

But when an MoS reporter called to the address registered this week the man who answered the door said he did not know who Paul Kehoe was and had never heard of him.

When we asked Mr Kehoe a spokesman then said that on Tuesday, April 17 - three days after this paper first asked him about the house - Mr Kehoe had amended his entry to reflect that he was letting the house to a tenant.

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