Housing agency clings to €4,000 ‘gift’ for ex-president – The Irish Times | Pro IQRA News

Housing agency clings to €4,000 ‘gift’ for ex-president – The Irish Times

 | Pro IQRA News

Pro IQRA News Updates.

The housing agency decided to keep a €4,000 sculpture that had been commissioned as a tribute to its former boss, Connor Skehan, who rejected a board member’s proposal to permanently offer him the artwork.

The bronze sculpture by artist Eamon Schiant was presented to Mr. Skehan in late 2017 before he was replaced as chair the following April, but then left in the housing agency office.

Mr. Skehan has previously faced public backlash over his comments that some families were “playing the system” by declaring themselves homeless to jump the social housing waiting lists.

Housing agency records show that there was an internal dispute over whether the sculpture was intended as a gift to Mr. Skehan or to be kept by the agency.

Last October, board member Tony O’Brien made a motion to the board that the artwork be re-presented to Mr. Skehan as a gift. In a written report, Mr. O’Brien said the former president “never missed a board meeting” and oversaw a significant expansion of the agency during his five-year tenure. He said the board had previously agreed to give him a “unique artwork” to say thank you.

The agency’s then-CEO, John O’Connor, told the board that he had agreed with the Comptroller and Auditor General that the sculpture would be “retained as an established asset by the agency,” O’Brien said.

In a November 2018 email, Mr. O’Brien told the CEO otherwise “the gift has been approved, unanimously, by the board of directors, at a meeting in the absence of the president.”

He pointed out that the agency’s annual report for 2017 revealed “a gift of 4,000 euros to the retired president.”

He said during the audit committee meeting that C&AG had made it clear that there was no reason “the agency could not make the gift to the former president.”

Internal correspondence and records were released to The Irish Times under the Freedom of Information Act.

Last November, the agency wrote to Mr. Skehan to say that the council had “concluded that the statue should be maintained and displayed” in its offices. The agency invited him to “come and watch this at any time convenient for him.”

When reached for comment, Mr. Skehan said he did not incur travel or other expenses while on government boards and was glad the statue remained with the agency. He said, “This is where they are and this is where they reside.”