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How Fingers signed off €254k loan to Lowry 'in days'

IRISH Nationwide boss Michael Fingleton gave Michael Lowry a cheque for a loan of €254,000 to buy a property within days of meeting the TD.

The loan was 100pc of the purchase price for a property in Carysfort Avenue in Blackrock in Dublin which Mr Lowry bought as a second home in 1996.

It was given to him “as a priority” and represented three times his salary as a minister at the time.

Bonus

The Moriarty Tribunal report, which details the transaction, also found that a subsidiary of Irish Nationwide in the Isle of Man provided an offshore bank account to Mr Lowry – who later publicly denied in the Dail that he had any offshore bank accounts.

The Irish Nationwide Building Society has so far cost the Irish taxpayer €5.4bn and is in the process of being wound down. Mr Fingleton, who stepped down as managing director in 2009 after more than 30 years in charge, has still not repaid at €1m bonus he received shortly before leaving.

The Tribunal report says Mr Fingleton had known Mr Lowry socially as far back as the 1980s mainly through GAA activities. The Nationwide boss said he got a phone call from Mr Lowry at the end of August 1996 to discuss a property purchase and they met the following day.

Mr Lowry told him he needed IR£200,000 (€254,000) to buy the house on Carysfort Avenue and Mr Fingleton approved the loan saying it was within his authority and on commercial terms.

Mr Fingleton took a handwritten note during the meeting, noting Mr Lowry’s position as a government minister, his salary of IR£65,000 (€82,500), his annual company income of IR£20,000 (€25,400) and the value of his Tipperary properties. He then wrote to his advances manager telling him to deal with the application “as a priority”.

Mr Lowry received the loan on September 4, 1996, which, said the report, was “within a matter of days” of the meeting with Mr Fingleton.

In its report, the tribunal also investigated the subsidiary of Irish Nationwide in the Isle of Man which provided an offshore bank account to Mr Lowry.

Consent

The Tipperary North TD gave the address of a Dublin accountancy firm in Foxrock in Dublin as his contact for that account.

He later admitted he had never sought the consent of the firm before doing this. When the tribunal tried to call as a witness Karl Tully, the Isle of Man-based official who set up the account for Mr Lowry, he refused to give evidence.

Mr Fingleton said there was nothing he could do about this despite being a member of the board of the Isle of Man bank.

He said the building society had made its wishes for full cooperation known to the board. The tribunal said that this was “reprehensible” and that Mr Fingleton had not “readily or satisfactorily explained” why Irish Nationwide’s fully owned subsidiary had not complied with the Tribunal’s request for Mr Tully to attend.