- 01 Sep 22
The Minister for Health has had tenants pay more than €200,000 towards a Sandyford two-bed he owns.
Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has referred to his failure to renew his property with the Residential Tenancies Board (RTB) as a "failure" and "mistake", alongside news that he lobbied for tax breaks for landlords for more than four years.
From 2014 until 2017 in the Dáil, the Wicklow TD repeatedly raised the struggle of “accidental landlords” during numerous debates and tabled multiple amendments to legislation for different tax treatment for accidental landlords.
Under his proposals, accidental landlords would be tax exempt on their rental income. The Irish Times reported today that the measures were rejected by the previous government over fears it would allow people to “game the system”.
Donnelly claimed yesterday that he only registered the property after his ministerial colleague Robert Troy was swept up in controversy over his 11 property interests.
Health Minister Stephen Donnelly has said that, to the best of his knowledge, that there are no further issues with his property interests after he failed to register a tenancy with the RTB in 2019 pic.twitter.com/G5p6EnrGTo
— Tadgh McNally (@TadghMcN) September 1, 2022
The former junior minister for Enterprise resigned last week after more than 10 days of revelations, one of which detailed that he also did not register a property on time with the RTB.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin has backed Stephen Donnelly after the revelations, as did Green Party leader Eamon Ryan. A spokesperson for Leo Varadkar said the Tánaiste “has confidence” in Donnelly.
During the 2020 general election, the Fianna Fáil TD described himself on television as an “accidental landlord” and said he was in negative equity. In multiple debates, Stephen Donnelly specifically urged relief for accidental landlords in the same position.
In comments to a committee examining the Finance Bill on November 9th, 2017, Donnelly said: “For several years I have tabled amendments to try to create an exemption for accidental landlords to stop them from being double taxed. The problem with this scenario is that their rental income is taxed at the marginal rate.
“I have provided analysis to the previous minister for finance that showed that many people under very modest assumptions end up with tax bills of €5,000 to €6,000.
“When I previously tabled amendments to address this issue before, the then minister for finance, Deputy Michael Noonan, came back and consistently refused to accept them on the basis that it could be a loophole for other people to avoid paying taxes. He said it was too easy to game the system,” Mr Donnelly said.
One amendment tabled by the Minister to the 2016 debate asked that “where an individual has rented their primary residence and is also renting another property, to apply full deductibility of rent paid on rent received, for the purpose of calculating tax liability.”
“The amendment I propose, and I appreciate it probably needs to be checked by the Department and Revenue, is targeted at these accidental landlords, is to state that we do not want them hiding from Revenue or trapped in a one-bedroom apartment with three children, so we will make the move tax neutral.”
Donnelly is renting out a property in Sandyford which he declared on the Dáil Register of Members’ Interests.
I have written to the Residential Tenancies Board complaining about Stephen Donnelly's failure to register his rental property and asking them to investigate it.
Landlords who break the law should face consequences, not just be able to register late when they get found out. pic.twitter.com/k2Pe5OPZvB
— Paul Murphy 🏳️⚧️ (@paulmurphy_TD) September 1, 2022
The Irish Independent reported a rental property owned by Sinn Féin TD Johnny Guirke was not registered with the RTB. Guirke has four rental properties across the country, and said one property was not renewed due to an oversight by the letting agent.
“As soon as I became aware of this, I immediately rectified this and the property is registered again with the RTB,” he said. “I take my responsibilities very seriously and regret that this error occurred.”
Responding to news of Stephen Donnelly's unregistered tenancy, Sinn Féin's health spokesperson David Cullinane said: "All politicians need to take their responsibilities in declaring interests seriously.
"It is vital that the highest level of transparency exists in politics and ministers need to lead from the front."
Time will tell how many more forgetful Ministers and TDs there are...