herald

Thursday 14 December 2017

€426m bottle plant fiasco fuels new inquiry calls

DISASTER: Cowen under growing pressure after claims of Anglo cover-up

THE GOVERNMENT was under pressure today to hold a full inquiry into the disastrous €426m Irish Glass Bottle deal.

It comes after three leaked reports on planning and finance at the Dublin Docklands Development Authority (DDDA) exposed a series of expensive failings.

In 2006, the DDDA joined with developer Bernard McNamara and financier Derek Quinlan to form a consortium, Becbay, to buy the Rinsend site. However, according to the new reports, the DDDA failed to get the land valued before investing €109m in the €426.8m sale.

The value of the DDDA's investment has been written down to nil after the collapse of the property market. And the DDDA is paying €5m-a-year interest payments on the loans. It has also emerged that inappropriate planning decisions could lead to the authority being sued for millions.

However, the reports did not deal with the influence Anglo Irish Bank had over the DDDA through the cross directorships of Sean FitzPatrick and Lar Bradshaw.

Both Mr FitzPatrick and Mr Bradshaw sat on the boards of both the DDDA and Anglo at the same time. Both were part of the DDDA board's decision to get involved in the controversial Irish Glass Bottle project.

This was despite the fact that their own bank financed the deal.

However, the reports did not explain what knowledge Dick Roche and Brian Cowen had when they allowed the DDDA to borrow money for the project from Anglo.

Mr Roche was the Minister for the Environment and Mr Cowen was the Finance Minister at the time the deal was done.

Fine Gael environment spokesman Phil Hogan said: "Perhaps Environment Minister John Gormley doesn't want to commission a report which might be politically unpalatable to the Government.

"I think it's a fundamental issue of political accountability."

Mr Hogan has put the three reports in the public domain after their publication was delayed when Mr Gormley referred them to Attorney General Paul Gallagher.





Scurrilous

Mr Gormley said he may call for further investigations into past actions of the DDDA. And he rejected allegations by Fine Gael that the Government was involved in a "cover-up". He described the claims as scurrilous and "muck-raking".

The reports say there are question-marks over the legality of some dockland developments because they involved inappropriate planning.

The board's report says information on planning issues was "deliberately and systematically withheld from the current executive board".

Mr Hogan said: "This is a serious political as well as a financial issue. There is no appetite to discover the truth about the cosy relationship between Anglo Irish Bank and the DDDA."

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