Ireland is a very shady country when it comes to property matters. This was especially true during the great Celtic Tiger era when the wink wink, nod nod culture reached its zenith.
But what went on in Wicklow County Council last July is very, very odd, even by Irish standards (Irish Times).
Last July Wicklow County Councillors voted to approve management plans to complete the purchase of a three acre site after they had been told a compulsory purchase order had been initiated in 2006.
Apparently, none of the Councillors thought it odd that a five-year-old compulsory order, initiated at the height of the property boom, was now being activated.
They may have been convinced by two assurances from management.
That an original valuation of €5.2 million had been reduced to €3 million after talks with representatives of the owner and occupier. Surely, a not to be missed bargain?
That the money would be recouped from the Department, as the land was earmarked for housing. In other words Wicklow County Council would be enriched at the expense of all other taxpayers.
And then some truth emerged; the land is actually worth no more than €400,000.
So, on first glance, it seems that somebody was trying to pull a fast one on the councillors – but who?
Was it somebody in Wicklow County Council management, was it somebody in the Department of the Environment, was it the owner of the property – was it a combination of all three?
The Attorney General has engaged a senior counsel to investigate the Department’s role in the whole matter so we should soon know exactly what happened.
Ah no, I’m only joking. Senior counsel has been appointed but we’ll never know what happened.
The matter will be dragged out in the traditional manner until it becomes just another giant impenetrable smudge on the by now very ragged taxpayer’s current account book.