Monday 24 October 2016

Alan Shatter hits out in anger at Ronan’s ‘despicable’ use of Auschwitz phrase

Developer Johnny Ronan
Developer Johnny Ronan
The words ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’ on the gates of the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz in Poland
Johnny Ronan

A German phrase which is widely associated with Nazi concentration camps will not be redacted from developer Johnny Ronan’s statement to the Banking Inquiry.

Former justice minister Alan Shatter has led calls for ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’ – which translates as ‘work sets you free’ – to be removed from the statement which was published on the Oireachtas website yesterday.

Mr Ronan stresses throughout his statement that he felt his company had worked hard but Nama had destroyed it.

Mr Shatter said it was beyond his comprehension that the “notorious and diabolically misleading” phrase which hung at the entrance to concentration camps, including Auschwitz, was used by a businessman and then published online.

He called on Mr Ronan to withdraw the remarks and on the Banking Inquiry to remove the phrase from his submission.

“I believe it is entirely inappropriate that such a phrase appear on the Irish Parliament’s website, available for global viewing. It is noteworthy that John Ronan’s statement as published has, in places, been redacted.

“I do not know what consideration, if any, was given to redacting this offensive and despicable phrase which is synonymous with Nazi inhumanity,” Mr Shatter said.

However, sources told the Herald that Mr Ronan’s 21-page submission will not be redacted further. The Joint Committee of Inquiry into the Banking Inquiry reviews all submissions before they are published online for legal or commercial issues.

They do not alter language used by witnesses as it is outside their remit. “This does not mean the Committee endorses or approves in any way of the views or language used by any individual witness in their statement,” said a source.


Elsewhere in his statement, Mr Ronan launched a scathing attack on Nama, claiming they made decisions based on personal likes and dislikes and destroyed his business.

He said that having civil servants run it was “akin to asking an accountant to fly an airplane or a butcher to perform heart surgery”.

However, the founder of Treasury Holdings said that nobody who has debts in Nama is willing to “challenge” the agency or “disclose the trust about how they operate, for fear that Nama will immediately enforce their debts”. Treasury Holdings was one of the best-known development companies in Ireland during the boom years, with interests here, London and in China.

After the crash, though, it was caught with huge debts that were transferred into Nama. In 2012, Nama and UK bank Lloyds moved to take control of the Battersea Power Station development site in London. It was later sold off for £400m in 2012. Mr Ronan claims that if Nama not had called in Treasury Holdings’ loans on Battersea that the company “would still be operating and would have repaid all of its debts”.

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