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Councillor’s son found double-dipping in rental market

By Conor O’Carroll

The son of a Sligo County Councillor and former Cathaoirleach has been found advertising a property on to students during the week and to tourists on Airbnb during the weekend.

James Clarke, son of Independent Councillor Michael Clarke, advertised the property last week on both sites before quickly removing the listings as it began to attract interest online.

The advertisement features one room with three bunk beds and another with two bunk beds, with two further rooms with double beds bringing the total capacity to between 12-14 students.

For €400 each per month, the students would be required to vacate the house at 12pm every Friday to make way for the Airbnb bookings, before being permitted to return to the property at 4pm on Sundays.

Village confirmed that the property did not have planning permission by geo-locating the property from images online and cross-referencing with Sligo County Council’s planning files.

This property is just one of Clarke’s, with a further two properties listed on Airbnb in Sligo.

One of these, which he “co-hosts” with his mother, Siobhan Fallon, has been converted from Fallon’s hairdressing salon. The property has been split into three separate listings on Airbnb, with guests able to book the upstairs apartment, the downstairs apartment, or the entire property.

At the end of last year, Fallon received retention planning permission for a change of use to short-term letting despite falling within the rent pressure zone.

Sligo County Council has ultimate responsibility for planning permission and decides each application on a case-by-case basis.

However, official government guidance to local authorities on providing short-term letting planning permission states that “the planning authority will consider whether the property is situated within a rent pressure zone, an area experiencing high rent inflation and whether there is a sufficient supply of rental properties available for longer-term rental in the area”.

It continues, “in areas of high housing demand it is unlikely that permission would be granted”.

At the time of writing, there are just two properties available to rent in Sligo Town on, compared to over 60 on Airbnb.

Sligo County Council did not respond to a request for comment.

Clarke’s other property, another apartment in Sligo Town, is also available on Airbnb. No short-term letting planning permission is available for the address provided on Sligo County Council’s website.

Clarke also did not respond to a request for comment and all his properties have since been removed from Airbnb.