Mick Wallace RT @wallacemick: Would mean something for Irish people and the notion of 'Irish Neutrality' if Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs @simoncov
Mick Wallace It would do something for #EU credibility if it were to acknowledge the amazing selfless role that #Cuba has played… https://t.co/I8G0EcxRxz
Mick Wallace RT @wallacemick: EU has supported the #US #Saudi #UAE #Israel Regime Change effort in #Syria for 10 years. And now #EU pretends that it car…
Mick Wallace #Eritrea 's Isaias Afwerki made an evil pact with #Ethiopia President to destroy the TPLF and #Tigray - And then W… https://t.co/9lH2snOfLg

Dail Diary

Housing Crisis will continue, as long as this Government does…

Dáil Diary no 61 – 19th November 2015

I had six minutes to discuss the Housing Crisis at Private Members on Wednesday night – the Government interest in the various problems in relation to homelessness availability of housing, affordability, quality and ghettoisation were probably best reflected by Minister Kelly, who arrived for the last half hour to talk, laugh and snigger his way through the remaining debate. Dealing with such a serious subject, in the face of apathy and bad manners, is disconcerting. Sadly, the Housing Crisis will continue as long as this Government does…

Here’s my Dáil Contribution -

“There are a number of reasons and numerous opinions on why we have a housing crisis. Without a doubt the main problem is the fact that the current and the previous Government stopped building social housing. When the State stopped building social housing, this had a knock-on effect in the private and rental sectors. On top of this, we have serious problems with both of these sectors.

 

The decision by NAMA and the banks to sell off rental units and development in a fire sale has been a disaster for the housing and property market. When the next government initiates an independent commission of inquiry into the workings of NAMA, the rationale behind the decision to sell properties in large bundles will have to be analysed. These bundles are so large that only a few investment funds worldwide could entertain the idea of buying them. It is hard to perceive how in God's name the rationale for this came about.

 

On top of this, we had huge portfolios, like Project Eagle and Project Arrow, sold in a non-competitive fashion, with the Irish frozen out of the market for the best value portfolios. The bigger the portfolio, the lower the value obtained for the assets. This made no sense whatever. Take for example Project Orange, which was sold to Irish Residential Properties. This company now owns over 1,500 units. Project Orange contained 760 units, so why in God's name, given our housing crisis, did the Government not use some of those units for social housing? That is what should have happened. The Project Orange portfolio was sold for a fraction of the price it will cost the Government to build the required social housing units. The same situation occurred with Project Arrow, which was sold to Cerberus for €800 million. Almost half of that portfolio was residential property, but the Government did not even examine it to see what was suitable for use as social housing.

 

In January 2014, almost two years ago, I warned the Minister for Finance in the House during Question Time about the real estate investment trusts, REITs, that were being set up. I warned that these would invite foreigners into the country to buy large portfolios of property with zero tax to pay. I said at the time that questions must be asked about the increased corporatisation of property markets with little financial gain for the State. I went on to say that this would surely have implications for the rental market in the years ahead. The Minister replied: "It is hoped that the REITs will help to standardise and improve management standards across the rental property sector as a whole, which would be of benefit to both investors and tenants". They were a huge benefit to investors, but not to tenants. When I look back on this, I wonder whether this was done deliberately and whether the Government did want to corporatise the whole rental market. That is the direction we are taking. Now, with the likes of Kennedy Wilson and REITs controlling so much of the rental market, it is easy for them to form a cartel and dictate prices.

 

NAMA has said it will build 20,000 housing units on land that belongs to the Irish people because it was part of the distressed assets of the banks. However, only 10% of these units will be social housing. Why, given that we need significant social housing if the housing crisis is to be addressed, is 50% of this housing not to be social housing? I would not agree with making 100% of this housing social housing because that would create another ghetto. However, we need to begin to address the fact that the Government is not building social housing currently. If it is going to allow NAMA to build 20,000 units, half of those units should be social housing units and there should be a proper housing mix so that there is no ghettoisation.

 

Traditionally, social housing here has had a bad reputation. It has meant poor quality, a poor location and poor services. It does not have to be like that. We can build good housing almost as cheaply as poor housing. There is no great gap between the cost of good, decent housing and poor housing. It is outrageous to think we cannot build social housing well and mix it with private housing in a good way. If we look at state housing in Italian cities, we see good quality units. We could do the same. We must change our attitude in regard to the provision of social housing. This would make a significant difference. Until the Government decides to get over its ideological barrier to building social housing, we will continue to have a social housing problem and a housing crisis, and people will continue to fail to afford to buy into the private or rental market.”

 

Mick Wallace.

 

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#ParisAttacks – Time to work for Peace, not War…

Dáil Diary no 60 – 18 November 2015

 

The reaction to 9/11 by the US and its Western allies has resulted in death, destruction, untold misery and displacement for millions. All for what? For control of the Middle East region and beyond? For the promotion of the increasingly powerful Arms Industry? How can the Irish Government defend their complicity in all of this, by allowing Shannon to be used as a US Military Airbase, aiding the US in their mindless slaughter of so many innocent people. Yesterday, writing about the attack on Paris, Mehdi Hasan wrote – 

“The hardest thing to explain is the glaringly evident which everybody has decided not to see,” wrote Ayn Rand in her novel The Fountainhead. That there is a link, a connection, between the west’s military interventions in the Middle East and terrorist attacks against the west, that violence begets violence, is “glaringly evident” to anyone with open eyes, if not open minds.”

On the same day, Robert Fisk wrote “The French now boast that they have struck Isis’s Syrian “capital” of Raqqa 20 times – a revenge attack, if ever there was one. For if this was a serious military assault to liquidate the Isis machine in Syria, why didn’t the French do it two weeks ago? Or two months ago? Once more, alas, the West – and especially France – responds to Isis with emotion rather than reason, without any historical context, without recognising the grim role that our “moderate”, head-chopping Saudi “brothers” play in this horror story. And we think we are going to destroy Isis..”

Here’s my short contribution on the attacks on Paris in the Dáil yesterday –

 

“I too extend my sympathy and express solidarity in respect of all those killed in Paris last weekend. Nobody of a rational mind would try to justify what happened. It was beyond horrific. I have a niece who lives in Paris and has three small children. Five people were killed on her street. It was not a great place to be on Friday night. Twice I have been to one of the restaurants where people were killed with my niece and I can just picture the scene. It is just too bad for words.

 

While it is hard to talk about all this, it is also hard to explain what is wrong and how can this happen. The number of people now being killed by military hardware has gone off the Richter scale. The five largest exporters of arms over the past five years were the US, Russia, China, Germany and France. How many repressive and autocratic regimes in the Middle East region has France not sold arms to? That is a difficult question. It has sold arms to Kazakhstan, the United Arab Emirates, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Israel, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkmenistan, Turkey and Pakistan.

 

Last Saturday morning, my niece said that for the first time in her life she got an idea of what it must be like to live in the Middle East. What happened in Paris happens there regularly. Can one imagine not being able to go to a concert, a restaurant or a bar for fear of being killed? This is what people in the Middle East face all the time. Last year, we gave permits for 190 tonnes of bullets to go to Afghanistan. I cannot imagine they did much good for peace. Since 2001, up to 2.5 million troops as well as huge quantities of military armoury have gone through Shannon Airport while huge amounts have flown over it. Yet, we are okay with that.

 

Over the past three days, shares in arms industry companies have, on average, gone up by 4%. It was a good weekend for them because it now looks like even more arms will be used. The French President, François Hollande, said, “We are going to lead a war which will be pitiless”. They, however, are already bombing ISIS and others. They are giving guns and arms to Saudi Arabia which is then giving them to ISIS, as are the United Arab Emirates. They will give arms and guns to anyone who will fight Assad. Western countries are arming both sides. We have created ISIS.

 

We are not going to defeat ISIS militarily. Only Iraq and Syria will eventually defeat it. ISIS wants France to react in a strong military fashion. It does not want us to take a peaceful position on this and to stop militarising the region. It does not want us to take a rational position on it. We are feeding ISIS with the whole militarisation of the region.”

 

Mick Wallace.

 

 

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Our Government Fiddles, While Our Housing Crisis Burns...

Dáil Diary no 59 - 5th November 2015

This Fine Gael/ Labour Government have been in power now for almost 5 years, and in that time, the Housing Crisis has continued to get worse. Of all the failings of this Neo Liberal Government, I believe that their failure to address the Housing Crisis, the resultant problems around Homelessness and Affordability, the problems associated with Planning, Building Regulations, and the Construction Industry in general, will leave a seriously dark mark on their legacy. Their failure, to not only reform how NAMA operate, but to even hold them to account, is a huge part of the same fiasco.

NAMA’s decision to sell the bulk of residential units and development land in their portfolio, to US Vulture funds, at knockdown prices, was always going to lead to a sad ending. Were our politicians naïve? Were they stupid? Or were they complicit in a neo liberal agenda that favoured these large financial institutions, at the expense of the Irish people? As if things weren’t bad enough, our Government now refuses to do what is crying out to be done. – Start a serious programme of building local authority social housing, that would begin the process of tackling the Housing Crisis. Or would that not fit the Neo Liberal agenda either? Here’s my Leader’s Questions with Taoiseach Enda Kenny, which was interrupted 8 times by An Ceann Comhairle.-

 

“The Taoiseach said the last thing he wants to do is to make this problem worse. I would argue that not addressing the underlying problems in the housing crisis is making it worse. It beggars belief how poorly the Government has dealt with the housing crisis. This week, the Children’s Rights Alliance pointed out that in January 2015, 400 families with children had to go into emergency accommodation. How could that figure have reached 700 by August 2015? How has the Government failed so miserably to deal with the problem? The Government is now talking about getting the homeless off the streets for Christmas. It talked about same thing last year.

The Government has been nearly five years in office but the problems have not gone away. In fact, the housing crisis has got worse.

It is not all on the Taoiseach’s plate. The housing crisis is a result of decades of housing policy that followed the private, free-market version. There is nothing wrong with the private sector making money out of building houses. That is what it does. It is not a crime to make money or lose it. The private sector looks to make a profit on whatever it does. That is accepted.

I see the role of the State as being different, however. Its role is to provide an actual service. The State is not looking to make a profit but to provide homes to people who cannot afford to buy them. For several different reasons, from land-banking to the whole thrust of housing construction, there are significant problems with affordability and homelessness. The Taoiseach can throw all he likes at the housing crisis but he will not solve it until he accepts the fact that we need to build social housing through the local authorities again.

The Government is not actually doing that. Most of the social housing it is planning to provide over the next five years will be through the private sector, not through the State. Why are the local authorities not allowed to borrow money from the European Central Bank at the cheap rates to build social housing like the approved housing bodies? I do not understand the logic of this. Will the Taoiseach explain it to me?

NAMA building 20,000 houses was much trumpeted. Only 10% of this will be social. Why will the Taoiseach not make 50% of this social housing? It should be a mix of social and private, 50% of each, in the same buildings. We have a massive housing problem and the lack of social housing is at the root of the problem. Until the Government addresses that, it will not solve the problem.”

The Taoiseach:  The Government has put €4 billion on the table for the provision of social housing. The Minister has called in all the local authority chief executives on two occasions. He has stated that they have their targets and they must get on with providing these houses. I expect 200 sites will be opened next year for building social housing all over the country.

In addition, NAMA expects, on the basis of the authorisation given to it by the Minister for Finance, to open 100 sites, most of which will be in Dublin. They will deliver about 80 units once they get started. This should be an addition to the system. As a builder himself, Deputy Wallace knows these cannot be provided overnight. We have to provide for the immediate term, as well as for the longer term.

Deputy Wallace recognises the supply element in dealing with the number of houses is absolutely critical. The fewer housing units, the greater the pressure on existing stock. That is what is causing the pressure in terms of rents. When higher rents are seen on the horizon by landlords, some go after them with a vengeance. We have to deal with this. That is why, unfortunately, there are people staying in hotel rooms and other unsuitable accommodation, as well as people on the street. This is a challenge with which we have to deal.

With all the measures being put in place, I hope we are making progress. We would like to think it could be done much faster, but that is not going to be the way it is. Some €4 billion will be spent on social housing between now and 2020. Instructions and authorisation have been given to get on with the task. Some 200 sites are to be opened. NAMA will provide 100 sites which once work starts will equate to 80 homes a week.

The Taoiseach:  They will be an important addition to the housing stock and alleviate somewhat some of the problems.

Deputy Mick Wallace:  There are 3,600 people on the social housing waiting list in County Wexford. The Government's five-year plan provides for the provision of 760 units, less than 100 of which - 20 a year - will be built by the local authorities in the next five years. That will not address the problem. Unless the Government changes its policy, we will see further boom and bust cycles and continue to have an affordability problem, homelessness and social exclusion. We sold the best sites through NAMA to investment trusts from abroad. Kennedy Wilson has just received planning permission to build 160 apartments at Clancy Barracks. It asked that no provision be made for social housing and no social housing is included. What will it do with the apartments? It will rent them out. What will that do? It will drive rents up further. There is a cartel of investors, most of them foreign, who control the rental market. Rents have increased from €1,000 a month for a two bedroom apartment in the city centre to €1,500 a month because the Government has sold half the country.

An Ceann Comhairle:   A question, please.

Deputy Mick Wallace:   NAMA has acted ridiculously, given the prices at which stuff has been sold. The Minister for Finance, Deputy Michael Noonan, revealed-----

An Ceann Comhairle:   Will the Deputy, please, put his question?

Deputy Mick Wallace:   In September 2013 the Minister for Finance said there was only one realistic bidder for and purchaser of Project Eagle. He was admitting that it was not a competitive process. Project Arrow, for which Cerberus has been agreed as the preferred bidder-----

An Ceann Comhairle:   This is Question Time.

Deputy Mick Wallace:   Will the Taoiseach consider intervening and not letting Project Arrow go ahead? Will he stall the project and see what units are suitable as social housing? Will he take these units out of the sale and sell the rest of them?

An Ceann Comhairle:   The Deputy is way over time.

Deputy Mick Wallace:   It is a non-competitive process.

An Ceann Comhairle:   What is the Deputy's question?

Deputy Mick Wallace:   Cerberus-----

An Ceann Comhairle:   Will the Deputy, please, put a question?

Deputy Mick Wallace:   Will the Taoiseach stall Project Arrow and examine what units could be used as social housing to address the question of homelessness and affordability in the short term?

An Ceann Comhairle:   That is not the original question the Deputy put.

Deputy Mick Wallace:   I again ask the Taoiseach if he will reconsider-----

An Ceann Comhairle:   I ask the Deputy to resume his seat. He is way over time.

Deputy Mick Wallace:  Will the Government start building social housing again because that is the only answer to the housing crisis 

 

Mick Wallace. 

 

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Government must stop NAMA selling Project Arrow to Cerberus - A bad deal for the Irish People... 

Dáil Diary no 58 - 22nd October 2015

Once again this week, I raised the workings of NAMA at Leader’s Questions with the Taoiseach. On this occasion, I asked six questions, and got zero answers. – Now there’s a surprise. Later on the same night, I spoke for a few minutes on the same issue, as part of Fianna Fail’s motion, which called for an Independent Commission of Investigation into NAMA’s sale of Project Eagle. I have now raised the NAMA issues at Leader’s Questions, seven times in a row – which happens to be way too much for the media’s attention span – As the Government continue to bury their head in the sand, wishing for the problems to go away. – It isn’t going to go away until we do eventually have the necessary Independent Commission of Investigation. Here’s my two Dáil contributions.- 

 

“The majority of Irish people no longer have confidence in NAMA. Yesterday, I asked An Garda Síochána to investigate, under section 19 of the Criminal Justice Act, why NAMA did not report the discovery that US investment fund PIMCO had been requested to pay £5 million to a former member of the NAMA Northern Ireland Advisory Committee, Mr. Frank Cushnahan. Despite this, NAMA told the Committee of Public Accounts on 9 July that if PIMCO did not withdraw, NAMA could not permit it to remain in the sales process, yet it refused to report the matter to the relevant authorities.

For the life of me, I do not understand how the Government can still be comfortable with the idea of NAMA selling Project Arrow to Cerberus. Cerberus is under criminal investigation in the United Kingdom and United States. When I queried NAMA on this issue last week, Mr. Frank Daly replied to me, "I am not aware that Cerberus is under criminal investigation in any jurisdiction". The same Mr. Daly admitted to the Committee of Public Accounts in July that the purchase of Project Eagle was being investigated but now he is not aware that the actual purchaser, Cerberus, is being investigated. Is it not little wonder that the people have serious questions about NAMA? They would like the Taoiseach to initiate a commission of inquiry.

Aside from the investigation by the National Crime Agency in the United Kingdom, in the United States the Department of Justice is investigating the role of American companies in the Project Eagle transactions. The investigation involves the Attorney General's office in New York, the New York office of the FBI and the US Securities and Exchange Commission, yet NAMA believes Cerberus is not being investigated.

Can the Taoiseach explain that to me? He might remind his friend Mr. Daly that these boys in America are not in the wedding planning business.

Will the Taoiseach do this country a service and suspend the sale of Project Arrow, now rather than later? A serious amount of assets, over half of which are residential, are in the Republic. God knows, we could do with them to address the housing crisis. They will be sold for a fraction of what it will cost NAMA to build units. The agency is saying it will cost €225,000 to build each of the 20,000 units. The assets in Project Arrow will be sold for a pittance. The Taoiseach should freeze the sale now. Under no circumstances is it a legal process given that Cerberus is under criminal investigation.

The Taoiseach:  I have reminded Deputy Wallace before that there are a number of investigations ongoing in regard to this matter. NAMA has appeared before the Committee of Public Accounts on several occasions. The matter has been discussed on at least three occasions. The Deputy himself was invited to appear before the Committee of Public Accounts and, for his own reasons, has refused to do so. I have said to him before that I acknowledge he is properly elected to the Dáil and has the rights and privileges that go with that but he should go before the Committee of Public Accounts. He was invited to do so by the Chairman, Deputy John McGuinness. If Deputy Wallace has further information, or other information, the committee is the place for him to give it. It is through the Committee of Public Accounts that NAMA is responsible to the Oireachtas.

The question of the American company that withdrew was made clear. The Deputy said on the last occasion that I was involved in a cover-up myself over this. He now tells me that I am a friend of Mr. Daly. He makes these allegations without any foundation or backup. If he has something to say, I advise him to say it to the Committee of Public Accounts, which is the duly elected and appointed body in which to do such business in here.

Deputy Mick Wallace:  The Taoiseach is giving out about me not going before the Committee of Public Accounts, but he does not seem to have any problem with Mr. Daly misleading the same committee. I have gone to the Garda, I have been interviewed by the National Crime Agency and I have offered to go to New York. I do not actually believe the Taoiseach could possibly try to make out that the Committee of Public Accounts has more teeth than those three organisations. 

Last week, I asked NAMA how it could have allowed the Project Eagle transaction to proceed knowing that Brown Rudnick and Tughans were involved, given that the same players were involved in the PIMCO deal in which the fixtures fee of £5 million had been sought for Mr. Frank Cushnahan. When I asked NAMA about this, Mr. Frank Daly replied, "Our advice is that such fee payments are not illegal". Could the Taoiseach confirm for me who NAMA received the advice from? Did that advice cover the laws of the United States and the United Kingdom, including Northern Ireland? If NAMA was so sure this was not illegal, why did its board decide that if PIMCO, one of the largest investment funds in the world, did not withdraw from the process, NAMA would force it out? How could it possibly have decided this if everything was rosy in the garden? Can the Taoiseach explain that to me?

Deputy Finian McGrath:     The Taoiseach should answer the questions.

The Taoiseach:     As I said, the Deputy has already made allegations here that I was involved in a cover-up about this.

Deputy Finian McGrath:     The Taoiseach did not answer the question.

Deputy Clare Daly:     The Taoiseach does not care-----

The Taoiseach:     I would like him to address that.

Deputy Micheál Martin:     This is Leaders' Questions, a Cheann Comhairle.

An Ceann Comhairle:     Hold on a second.

The Taoiseach:     The Deputy did not refer to the very detailed, strong and clear response Mr. Daly gave to his allegations in this matter. He chose not to refer to that at all.

Deputy Mick Wallace:     The Taoiseach has not answered the question.

The Taoiseach:     I repeat for Deputy Wallace that every time he comes in here, he comes with very specific allegations.

Deputy Mick Wallace:     And every time the Taoiseach refuses to answer any questions.

The Taoiseach:     I am saying to Deputy Wallace that the appropriate place for him-----

Deputy Micheál Martin:     There is no argument about the fees.

The Taoiseach:     -----to make his allegations and to have NAMA respond to the Committee of Public Accounts is at the Committee of Public Accounts.

Deputy Micheál Martin:     There is money in an offshore account.

The Taoiseach:     For everybody's sake, in respect of all those people who are giving him pieces of information-----

(Interruptions).

The Taoiseach:     -----which they are entitled to do, will he bring his allegations before the Chairman of the Committee of Public Accounts and its members? NAMA is duty bound to respond-----

Deputy Clare Daly:     It has not responded so far.

Deputy Mick Wallace:     It does not want to answer questions.

The Taoiseach:  to that body in reference to the Oireachtas. I ask the Deputy please to take up the invitation to him.

Deputy Mick Wallace:  The Taoiseach does not want the truth.

The Taoiseach:  He has refused three times to go before that committee.

Deputy Micheál Martin:  The Taoiseach is stonewalling.

 _____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Speech during Motion re Project Eagle

“I will address some of the points which have been raised tonight. Government speakers have stated that just because something had a par value of £4.5 billion and it ended up being sold for £1.241 billion, it does not mean it was sold for more than £3 billion too little, but the fact is that when NAMA was set up the argument was made at the time, that the reason for doing so was so we would not firesale assets, but wait for the market to recover, and get value. Sadly, this rule was not kept. Property does have a value. It is worth what it cost to build, even if the land does not cost anything. If property is sold for less than it cost to build, in my opinion, it is being sold for less than its value.

 

The point has been made that the parcels of land were so big that only a handful of companies on the planet could have bought these big portfolios. It was impossible for Irish business people to buy into this property area. When NAMA was set up, it was one of the biggest property companies on the planet. What has happened is that we have actually sold this property mostly to US vulture funds. We have sold a huge chunk of Ireland away to people who only care about the bottom line, which is profit. The Government seems to be content with the idea of the Kennedy Wilson’s controlling the rental market in Dublin. I do not think this is such a good idea. If what we had before lacked regulation, this was something which should have been addressed, but we had landlords who owned two, five or ten houses and they will be wiped because of how things have gone. An apartment in Dominic Street has gone from €900 a month to €1,500 a month in the space of three years because a small group of players such as Kennedy Wilson have a major stranglehold on the rental market.

 

A number of Deputies have said that no allegations have been made against NAMA itself. I am sorry, but I beg to differ. At present, 15 different investigations are being carried out by An Garda Síochána into the workings of NAMA, and this is just the reported stuff. Trust me, there is more coming down the tracks in terms of complaints about how NAMA has done its business. People have said enough investigations are going on, but it just so happens the Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission in the United States are only interested in US companies. This is their remit under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. They can only look at the four US companies involved, namely, Brown Rudnick, Cerberus, PIMCO and Fortress. The National Crime Agency in Britain is looking at the Northern Ireland angle. In actual fact, we are still not getting any proper independent investigation into the workings of NAMA. If we go back through the answers the Committee of Public Accounts was given by NAMA, when Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked about the conflict of interest of Frank Cushnahan and the Project Eagle sale, she was told it was commercially sensitive, and that another issue was personally sensitive. This is understandable and NAMA is within its rights to do this, but only a commission of inquiry will get the unredacted version, and only this way will we get to the truth of what is happening.

 

I argue that the process of the sale of Project Eagle was not competitive. Fortress bid less than £1.1 billion and the reserve was £1.24 billion. There was something amiss. Cerberus was the only live bidder left on the pitch. We probably have not heard the last of Fortress, and there are problems with it.

 

As Deputy Michael McGrath said, there is a cloud over the workings of NAMA and it will remain there until there is an independent commission of inquiry of some nature. If the Government does not do it, we will probably get it after the election, but we will get one eventually, and the sooner the better. Project Arrow should be frozen. It would be criminal if NAMA goes ahead and sells to a company under criminal investigation.”

Mick Wallace

 

 

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namaleaks

THE TRUTH IS COMING....

Namaleaks is a project that seeks to uncover possible injustice and poor practice related to NAMA (National Asset Management Agency) and financial institutions in Ireland.

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