An internal investigation is taking place in City Hall over allegations that a Galway City Council official improperly allocated a house to a fellow council staff member.
The revelation that the investigation is taking place has shocked councillors and is set to become a lightning rod of controversy when the new council meets in June - the first meeting after next week’s Local Elections.
Reacting to the news, Labour’s Billy Cameron has called for an immediate “root and branch weeding out” of this alleged “dysfunctionality”, and he has demanded that the matter be “aired in public at the next council meeting”.
The issue first came to attention within City Hall last summer. An investigation was begun by former manager Joe O’Neill and is being continued by the current manager Brendan McGrath. However it did not become public until the Galway Advertiser submitted a list of questions to City Hall on Tuesday regarding the fact an internal investigation was taking place and the alleged improper allocation of dwellings involving two staff members, understood to be in the Galway City Council housing department.
In reply, City Hall issued a statement saying: “An internal investigation is ongoing in Galway City Council into an allegation in relation to a breach of procedure in the housing service. It is not appropriate to make any public comment at this time as it may compromise the integrity of the investigation and may be prejudicial to any party involved. The investigation will be completed as soon as possible. A report on the outcome of the investigation will be provided to councillors thereafter.”
The house in question is understood to be in An Leargán, in the Knocknacarra/Rahoon area. When these were built, there was an agreement in the transfer from O’Malley’s, the builders, to the Galway City Council, that under the Part V requirement, some of these houses would be designated social/affordable.
It is understood that one of these houses was allocated to a member of the council’s housing department itself and that the matter was brought to the attention of the council authorities by a whistleblower.
Speaking to the Galway Advertiser, Cllr Billy Cameron has described the allegations as “most serious”.
“Transparency, openness, and accountability must be at the cornerstone of housing allocations and transfers,” he said. “It presently is not, and seemingly, with these revelations, it has not been for a long period of time. An immediate and thorough report must be presented to councillors.”
The Mayor of Galway Pádraig Conneely has also been shocked by the revelations, saying that “if true, they are a damning indictment of the public service”.
“The idea that council staff could possibly allocate houses to other staff members stinks,” the Mayor told the Galway Advertiser. “We must await the final outcome, but if it is true, it will dent public confidence in the council.”
Independent councillor Catherine Connolly said she was “shocked” by the developments.
“We have fought for a very long time for openness and accountability in housing and I hope there is no substance to these allegations,” she said. She is calling on the city manager to give a specific timeframe for the completion of the investigation.