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Saturday 3 December 2016

Michael O'Doherty: Longboat debacle offers Celtic Tiger tycoon the chance to make amends

Bernard McNamara
Bernard McNamara
Simon Delaney
Noel Winterlich
Playwright Brian Friel, pictured in 2009

How about this for a quick property-related pop quiz ... Which Irish property developer, owing €1.2bn back in 2011, said: "I'm going to stand here and face the music, and I don't expect any sympathy"?

Fine words, one must say, and very much at odds with the common perception of those who amassed fortunes during the good times and then lived comfortably in exile once the good times ended, leaving the taxpayer to pick up the tab.

The kind of man who, when faced with a problem about the properties he built, would surely accept any moral responsibility for the owners' hardship and dip into his deep pockets to help. That is, rather than hiding behind the cloak of limited companies which relieve him of any personal responsibility.

If only this person were the one responsible for building Longboat Quay, the criminally-shoddy piece of workmanship which requires €4m to make it safe from fire.

That's a bill which the owners of the individual apartments have been asked to cough up, as the company that built it has long since gone into liquidation.

Not only are hard-pressed homeowners faced with finding around €18,000 each, or be evicted by the fire department but, more importantly, they are faced with a catastrophic fall in the value of their apartments. The negative publicity about Longboat Quay will make them almost impossible to sell in the near future.

Strangely enough, the man behind this fire trap, and the man who made a point of portraying himself as being so honourable back in 2011, are one and the same person.

It may come as just as much of a surprise to learn that, with comments coming from all sides in this unfortunate saga, the one person who hasn't so much as raised a peep on the subject is Bernard 'Honourable' McNamara himself.

Having moved to the UK in 2011, where he could avail of its more lenient bankruptcy laws, which allowed him to shake off that pesky debt of €1.2bn in just a year, he's back in business, developing a hugely-expensive office block on the corner of St Stephen's Green.

Presumably, he is also back living in the style to which he's accustomed.

While working out his bankruptcy in the UK, Bernard could still afford to rent a house which cost €7,500-a-month, though this is as of nothing compared to the luxury he enjoyed during the good times.

Boom

Bernard's primary residence during the boom was a mansion on Ailesbury Road, in the basement of which he had built a swimming pool. No ordinary swimming pool, mind you, because at the touch of a button, the glass roof would lower itself down onto the pool, and turn it into a dance floor.

Four years ago, Bernard, you promised to face the music. Now is your chance to prove that these weren't just empty words. So how about doing the "honourable" thing and helping out the owners of Longboat Quay?

The people who bought your apartments aren't looking to have a roof under their dancing feet. They'd be happy with a simple roof over their heads.

 

Simon's perfect for TV3 ... so it's time to ditch the silver screen dreams

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Simon "I'll do it" Delaney has revealed that he's going to take a break from his new job as co-presenter of Ireland AM almost as soon as he's started it as, not for the first time, Hollywood beckons.

Simon has never been shy about talking up his stellar career on the silver screen, though sometimes the reality has fallen short of the hype.

Having broadcast his role opposite Sean Penn in This Must be the Place, it transpired that Simon was 18th on the cast list - lodged between "businessman in airport" and "bank employee". He also giddily talked about Vince Vaughn when he landed a role in Delivery Man - "One day I dress as a tomato, and the next day I work with Vince Vaughn. It is quite surreal.". Simon did at least get higher up the cast list there, though his career seems to have stalled somewhat in the intervening two years.

Springboard

One would have thought that the man who can't say no (you name it - TV ads, voiceovers, panto, MC-ing - Simon has done it) would maybe have realised that a regular job is what he needed.

While the TV3 gig is admittedly only one day a week, it was perhaps the springboard for a more full-time role on Irish TV, something which the very affable Simon would seem to be perfect suited for.

Instead, only a few weeks after starting in TV3, and as the station tries to build up a loyal audience for its new show, Simon is leaving for five weeks to make his umpteenth attempt to "crack Hollywood", as he takes a minor role in The Conjuring 2.

In the meantime, TV3 should prepare for the fact that Simon may be unable to present his show on the weekend of February 28 next year, and they should start looking for a replacement now.

After all, that's the weekend that he will undoubtedly be attending the Oscars ...

 

Some things are difficult to forgive

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While no-one should rejoice in the death of criminal Noel Winterlich, who died in a violent incident last week, one should equally have little time for efforts to portray him as a decent man.

But inevitably, his girlfriend has claimed he was a decent, misunderstood soul.

"Noel had his trouble and had HIV," said Dearbhla Leahy, suggesting this is why there was no sympathy for him.

"People are very judgemental, very close-minded when it comes to that subject."

Sorry, Dearbhla, but people don't object to Noel (inset) because he has HIV.

People objected to him because he was a career criminal who, knowing he was HIV positive, tried to bite and infect a garda while he was being arrested.

 

Unassuming Brian was a true gent

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The death of Brian Friel caused a problem for the Irish media, unable as they were to reminisce about the great man through interviews they had done with him. The problem being that Friel didn't do interviews ...

I know this because, just like a journalist who last week revealed a letter of rejection she had received, many years ago I also approached him for an interview when editing a college magazine.

In return, I got a hand-written letter, explaining that he never gave interviews and politely turning me down.

In an age when Z-list celebrities without a fraction of Friel's talent engage agents and PR companies to handle such requests, how charming it was to learn that Brian still took the time out to respond so politely.

A true gent.

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