Council leader joins housing council despite ethics breach

Wexford County Council chief executive Tom Enright has been appointed by the government to the board of an agency overseeing billions of euros in house building funding – just months after he was harshly reprimanded by SIPO, the watchdog of political ethics.

r Enright had threatened to pull the advertisement from South East Radio’s board for reporting on the board.

Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien appointed Mr Enright to the board of the Housing Finance Agency last month, along with five other people.

The Housing Finance Agency is a key cog in the government’s plans to provide €20 billion in funding as part of its Housing for All plan which aims to see at least 33,000 new homes built each year until 2031.

The agency already lends funds to accredited housing bodies, local authorities and higher education institutions, and has a loan portfolio of 5.3 billion euros.

However, it is now also responsible for lending €5 billion of the €20 billion in funding available over the life of the Housing for All policy.

The minister said the Housing Finance Agency will play a “vital role” in delivering the “difficult” number of new homes that Ireland needs in the years to come.

His department released a statement online regarding the nominations after a request from the Irish Independent.

Mr Enright was reported to the Standards in Public Service Commission (SIPO) in 2019, after he told South East Radio management that following a lengthy dispute over coverage of the council’s economic strategy of County Wexford, the council would end its commercial relationship with the station.

Mr Enright claimed the station had been critical of the council’s work and the council could no longer support him. He claimed there had been a “personal vendetta” against him and the council.

Mr Enright also claimed in a 2019 email that he had been threatened with being reported to SIPO, which he found “sickening”. The SIPO complaint was made by Wexford businessman Karl Fitzpatrick, who also presents a weekly show on South East Radio.

“I have an unblemished record and have resisted corruption throughout my career and I have clear evidence in public records to prove it,” Mr Enright said in the email.

Mr Fitzpatrick lodged a complaint with SIPO, alleging that Mr Enright breached a number of sections of the Local Government Act and a section of the Standards Act. The watchdog confirmed the complaints.

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