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Finance

 

 

#NAMA – Is there a new Irish Mafia rising from the ashes of NAMA?

Dáil Diary no 12 – 13th July 2016

It is worrying that the present Government, just like its predecessor, does not want to know the truth about the workings of NAMA. With every passing day, more and more information is coming to light about how this State entity called NAMA has operated – And it’s frightening. This may have serious repercussions for Business in Ireland in the long term – the present Government position of just hoping that is all goes away, and sure everything will be grand in time, is unlikely to work. We now have a situation in Ireland where a number of influential players in the property market, may have built new and fragile empires on ill-gotten gains. – Just how many we don’t know, and are unlikely to find out until we have a Government that wants to know. This saga is far from over, in fact, it’s really only in its infancy still…

Here’s my Leader’s Question today on the issue with the Taoiseach -

 

“What does the Taoiseach think of the National Asset Management Agency, NAMA, complaining to the Standards in Public Office Commission, SIPO, in March 2016 about Frank Cushnahan, given that it knew in March 2014 that this gentleman was in line for a backhander of £5 million?

An Ceann Comhairle: Deputy, please, do not make allegations against somebody outside the House. It is not in order.

Mick Wallace:  Given that Ronnie Hanna was arrested in May 2016, can we expect NAMA to complain about him in May 2018? Aside from Frank Cushnahan, the arrest of Ronnie Hanna has brought Project Eagle back home to Dublin, yet the Government wants to bury its head in the sand.

It is more than a year since I first gave the Garda the name of an individual who paid €15,000 in a bag in order to get favourable treatment from NAMA as well as the name of the NAMA employee who was taking the money. There was denial all around as usual. However, the man receiving the money has since been arrested on a different charge. Meanwhile, the guy who paid the bribe is doing well for himself; there is not a bother on him. Such is business in Ireland.

The investment fund, Hibernia REIT, is taking a court action to have An Garda Síochána removed from Harcourt Street station. These buildings were in NAMA and they are probably the most important buildings in the country for the Garda. The command and control centre for the whole of Ireland is based there. Moving and scattering this technical centre to the four winds will undermine the workings of the Garda. Will the Taoiseach explain why NAMA was allowed to sell this site to a vulture fund rather than keep it in State ownership? Hibernia REIT, which now owns the site, was set up by a guy who was a big player in NAMA where he was a portfolio manager for three years. When he joined the agency, he moved his 30% shareholding in his father's company to an offshore trust. Did he declare that to NAMA? The same company then benefitted from some lucrative work from the agency. He left NAMA in December 2012 and used his insider knowledge regarding the agency's assets to line up investment funds that would provide the finance for the new company, Hibernia REIT, which he manages. It would not require forensic examination to discover that Hibernia REIT did remarkably well in purchasing former NAMA assets, many of which this gentleman was involved with, but then that is how we do business in Ireland.

Does the Taoiseach not think that the public interest would be best served if we examined the complete workings of NAMA? At this stage the majority of people in Ireland believe NAMA is rotten to the core.

The Taoiseach:  It is not the first time Deputy Wallace has raised a matter in respect of NAMA, which is a matter of public interest. As I said before on quite a number of occasions, the advice given to me by the authorities is that this loan portfolio was sold following an open process to the highest bidder.

On the questions of allegations against certain individuals in Northern Ireland, NAMA paid no moneys to any party on this loan sale against whom allegations of wrongdoing are now being made and, as I said before, if somebody has evidence, they should bring that to the authorities.

I am also aware that two individuals that the Deputy mentioned were held for questioning in respect of the UK National Crime Agency, NCA, investigation into the Northern Ireland assets owned by NAMA and I am advised that the NCA has confirmed to NAMA that no aspect of the agency's activities are under investigation. I welcomed this previously, as did the Minister for Finance. These allegations are serious and, clearly, they have to be, and are being, investigated in that jurisdiction. Taking into account the investigations that are under way, the Minister for Finance has a view that no specific line of inquiry here can stand up and be usefully pursued by a commission of investigation. Many allegations have been made. The appropriate investigations are already taking place in the appropriate jurisdictions and it would be unwise to launch a very costly commission of investigation on claims that are currently under investigation by the authorities.

The Deputy mentioned before the issue that he raised. These are specific allegations of wrongdoing. If there are ones that are not being investigated, obviously they should be brought to the attention of the Garda and the authorities. If this is an issue that is appropriate to a commission of investigation, we need more details on what the Deputy has there and in the absence of such specific allegations, it is right and proper that the appropriate authorities should have the time and space required to compete their investigations.

The Deputy has raised the issue of the Garda station in Harcourt Street. I am aware of the situation there in so far as their being asked to move out is concerned. I think there is an objection lodged to that. Obviously, investigations, as I said, are going on in the Northern Ireland jurisdiction as well.

The Comptroller and Auditor General is required, under section 226 of the NAMA Act, to produce a report every three years - that office is a completely independent body - assessing the extent to which NAMA has made progress towards achieving its overall objective. NAMA and the Comptroller and Auditor General appeared before the Committee of Public Accounts on 9 July last year. At that appearance the Comptroller and Auditor General indicated that his next section 226 report would look in detail at a sample of NAMA disposals and a sample of properties held by it for investment and, furthermore, that a specific review of Project Eagle, under section 9 of the Comptroller and Auditor General Act, would be undertaken. That is under way. I do not know when it will be published but I understand quite a good deal of work has been done on it.

An Ceann Comhairle:  Thank you, Taoiseach.

The Taoiseach:  The Comptroller and Auditor General has indicated that he intends to issue a report, under section 11 of the Comptroller and Auditor General Act, following this review of Project Eagle, and that is consistent with his powers to investigate, scrutinise and report independently on any aspect of NAMA's work which may arise through its annual audits or special reports about any aspect of NAMA's work.

I assume if Deputy Wallace is raising a new issue on the basis of a new allegation, I am sure he will transmit that to the Garda or the authorities as well.

An Ceann Comhairle:  Before I bring in Deputy Wallace, I wish to say that he has raised, as the Taoiseach acknowledged, a matter of major public importance, but having regard to the Standing Orders of the House, I ask him please, notwithstanding the fact he has named individuals today and in the past, not to name individuals so as to be in compliance with Standing Orders, and not to refer to an individual in such a way as to make him or her identifiable.

Deputy Mick Wallace:  That is probably the worst answer the Taoiseach has ever given me in the House in relation to NAMA. He did not answer any of the questions I asked him. I never mentioned the words "Project Eagle". I am tired talking about that in here. On that, the Taoiseach has made the point that there is no investigation into the workings of NAMA, even around that or anything else. It is blatantly obvious that the one jurisdiction where some investigation of a serious nature should be going on is the one that does not have one, and that is us. We do not want to know, or the Taoiseach does not want to know. I can understand why he does not want to know. As a matter of interest, how come no one can ever answer the question as to why NAMA never reported the fact this individual was in line for a €5 million backhander? Why, under section 19 of the Criminal Justice Act, did it not report it? Why did the Minister for Finance not report it?

An Ceann Comhairle:  Thank you, Deputy.

Deputy Mick Wallace:  Will the Taoiseach answer my question? Why did NAMA sell Harcourt Street station to a vulture fund rather than keep it in State ownership? Has it anything to do with the fact that people, who were insiders, were going to benefit from it?

An Ceann Comhairle:  Thank you, Deputy.

Deputy Mick Wallace:  It is just ridiculous. It is outrageous to say that no allegations have been made against NAMA in Dublin. There are bucketfuls of them. Somebody is eventually going to have to deal with it. Why will the Taoiseach not deal with it before he is gone? Otherwise it will be on his legacy that he did not want----

An Ceann Comhairle:  Thank you, Deputy. Your time is up.

Deputy Mick Wallace:  accountability or transparency around this State body.

The Taoiseach:  I do not accept Deputy Wallace's assertion at all that there are people in government who do not want to know. He made a allegation. He asked me why Harcourt Street station was sold to a vulture fund. I will find out the answer for him. He made other allegations that are of a serious nature. I am quite sure he will bring them to the authorities.

Deputy Mick Wallace:  The Garda knows about them.

The Taoiseach:  I am sure that the Deputy also accepts that the Comptroller and Auditor General's office is completely independent and it is looking at Project Eagle-----

(Interruptions).

The Taoiseach:  and if there is any issue in respect of an allegation being made about an individual or an entity, the Comptroller and Auditor General is perfectly entitled to-----

Deputy Mick Wallace:  No.

The Taoiseach:  Yes, he is. He is perfectly entitled to investigate that completely independently. There are a lot of rumours going around and a lot of speculation and allegations. If the Deputy has evidence, I would be the first to say to him that this will be treated seriously, as it has been in a number of other areas where commissions have been involved.

 And here's a YouTube of my speech -

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SUERYtZAAM0&feature=youtu.be

 

Mick Wallace. 

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NAMA Scandal - The Plot Thickens...

 

Dáil Diary no 10 - 1st July 2016

 

My Private Members Motion calling for a Commission of Investigation into the sale of Project Eagle was defeated yesterday, despite the fact that the Government do not have a majority, it is truly shocking just how many voted, so that we ignore all the allegations of malpractice linked to NAMA. - Shocking that Fianna Fail , who had agreed to support our motion, decided to do a U turn, shocking that Labour are happy to ignore the goings on in NAMA, shocking that some Independents, who spoke strongly against the lack of transparency and accountability in NAMA only months ago, are now happy to turn a blond eye. Is it any wonder that the Irish people are so cynical about Politics and Politicians? Not yet, not now, but the Truth will eventually out...

 

 

“The sale of Project Eagle by NAMA to Cerberus for £1.241 billion was, at the time, the largest ever property deal to take place on the island of Ireland. It was also the first time that NAMA packaged up a loan book to sell in its entirety - 850 loans to be precise. Project Eagle is now under investigation in two different jurisdictions. The Securities and Exchange Commission in America is investigating it and so is the National Crime Agency in Britain. Repeated claims by the Taoiseach and the Minister for Finance, Deputy Michael Noonan, that allegations of wrongdoing have not been directed at NAMA are not true. I have alleged wrongdoing by the two former NAMA employees, Frank Cushnahan and Ronnie Hanna, in their role in the sale of Project Eagle. Both men have now been arrested by the NCA in Northern Ireland. The Minister said last week that all known allegations are being investigated by the appropriate authorities, but I do not agree. Ronnie Hanna worked for NAMA in Dublin as head of asset recovery. He is currently on bail in Northern Ireland on fraud offences relating to Project Eagle. The man who held one of the most powerful positions in NAMA for over four years has been arrested, is on police bail and has to come back to answer further questions. A file has been prepared for the Director of Public Prosecutions, DPP, and this Government has not batted an eyelid. NAMA is ours. Its assets belong to the people and they bear every euro of loss that it incurs. The people pay its salaries. They paid for Frank Cushnahan and Ronnie Hanna's salary. Unfortunately, it appears that others were paying them too. We owe it to the people at least to investigate whether there is any material indication of wrongdoing. Every other country that was tangentially involved in Project Eagle has seen the same indication and has opened an investigation. Only Ireland, to its shame, has not. With every passing day, the Government is losing credibility.

 

  Project Eagle cannot be split into two separate transactions no matter how NAMA attempts to distance itself from the deal. I am hopeful the ongoing investigations by the Securities and Exchange Commission and the NCA will help to shed light on the deal. Neither is investigating the specific role played by NAMA in this deal. NAMA is a sideshow to them because they are only concerned with offences committed in their jurisdictions.

 

  NAMA has repeatedly misled anyone who will listen to it when answering questions on its role in Project Eagle. I will give some examples. I was told by NAMA in response to a written question that Ronnie Hanna, David Watters and Frank Cushnahan never met any prospective purchaser of that portfolio, which is not true. I have had it confirmed by the chief executive of one of the bidders. Frank Daly stated that in his role on the Northern Ireland Advisory Committee, Frank Cushnahan was not involved in any decision-making and did not have access to confidential data. If so, why, after Frank Cushnahan resigned in 2013, did NAMA insist that he confirmed that all his confidential files at Tughans had been destroyed? Brian Rowntree, who was also on the Northern Ireland Advisory Committee, contradicts NAMA on this, stating that it was privy to confidential information. In his reply to NAMA, Frank Cushnahan said, "I am returning herewith as requested the enclosed letter confirming that all documentation has been securely disposed of." What in God's name would he be disposing of if there was nothing to dispose of? Why was he entitled to £5 million if he had no confidential information? It does not stack up.

 

  Frank Cushnahan had confidential information on borrowers. NAMA said he did not have confidential information on the sales process. The sales process was not so relevant but he had enough inside information for it to be worth an awful lot of money. NAMA said the Northern Ireland property market was not looking good in January 2014 and that it believed the best approach was a sale of the entire loan book. I will read some extracts from CBRE, Savills and Lisney. A CBRE report on 28 January 2014 on the Northern Irish commercial property market said of 2013, that:

Last year marked a major turning point for the commercial property market in Northern Ireland with the first tentative signs of recovery emerging in the second half of the year. The most notable trend was an increase in activity in the investment sector as the process of deleveraging kicked off in Northern Ireland in the last six months of 2013. There was strong demand from both institutional and local buyers for the assets that came available for sale.

A Savills report in January 2014 said:

 

2013 marked the beginning of a new cycle in the Northern Irish market. NI is mirroring the general UK macroeconomic performance which has now returned three consecutive quarters of economic growth.

 

In a similar vein, Declan Flynn, the managing director of Lisney in Belfast, said, "Our 2013 research has highlighted that Property Investment transactions in Northern Ireland have increased six fold over the last two years." The notion that things were bad is wrong. Things were not wonderful but they had improved dramatically. They say that commercial property only increased in value between 2% and 3% in 2014. That is a real giveaway because it means Cerberus will come close to doubling its money on its purchase. It means they bought very low in the market because it got Project Eagle for nearly half of what it was worth. Why are we not concerned about that? NAMA will continue to get away with all these contradictions and more until an independent commission of investigation, with the ability to demand all the relevant documentary information regardless of commercial sensitivity, is initiated.

 

  Another important question that a commission of investigation would examine is whether the Project Eagle bidding process was competitive. When asked this question, NAMA has always passed the buck and referred back to its sale adviser Lazard, which stated there was sufficient competitive tension between Cerberus and Fortress to continue the bidding process. What evidence was provided at the time to show competitive tension still existed? I have spoken to a senior executive in Fortress who confirmed there was no competitive tension. He said that the lack of tension was horrifically uncompetitive. They were his words. Cerberus bid £1.241 billion. The reserve price was £1.24 billion. Fortress bid £1.1 billion. Let us not get into the argument of whether it knew the reserve price and whether it wanted to get back into the process or not. It was not a competitive tendering process by any stretch of the imagination. It does not stack up. Fortress had to write to the Department of the Taoiseach to gain entry to the sales process. Cerberus met NAMA's head of asset recovery, Ronnie Hanna, the day before the bid was accepted. What was discussed at this meeting? Can we see the minutes? NAMA will not give them to us but a commission of investigation would compel it to reveal the truth. I have requested under freedom of information from NAMA all e-mails and other correspondence between NAMA and Lazard on the sales purchase of Project Eagle. It will be interesting to see if NAMA will release this information or hide behind the excuse of commercial sensitivity. This is information that a commission of investigation could demand. 

 

NAMA's legal advisers on the transaction were a London firm, Hogan Lovells, which it paid £1.8 million. It would be interesting to see all the legal advice given to NAMA by this firm regarding the sale. I wonder if it was aware of the STG£5 million fee for Frank Cushnahan that PIMCO was set to pay and just what did Hogan Lovells do for that STG£1.8 million? It is nice money if one can get it. I have also requested from NAMA, under freedom of information, all e-mails and any other correspondence between NAMA and Hogan Lovells on the sale-purchase of Project Eagle.

The Government has referred to the long-awaited report of the Comptroller and Auditor General on Project Eagle. This report will examine whether NAMA achieved the best possible return for the taxpayer in the sale of Project Eagle. It will not be examining the governance of NAMA in regard to the deal and whether it was executed in a fully legal and transparent manner. It will not be investigating the role played by the former NAMA employees, Frank Cushnahan and Ronnie Hanna.

 

In a written reply to me on 28 October 2015, NAMA stated that "Ronnie Hanna was a senior executive who joined NAMA in 2010 who acted professionally and diligently during his time at NAMA." This is the same Ronnie Hanna who is currently on bail in Northern Ireland for fraud offences relating to his role in Project Eagle. NAMA threw Frank Cushnahan under the bus when it had no other option but it cannot do the same to a man who held the role of head of asset recovery for four years in the agency.

 

From figures available it appears there was an enforcement rate of between 7% and 8% against NAMA's borrowers in Northern Ireland compared to a 27% rate for NAMA borrowers in the Republic of Ireland. Why does the Minister think that a NAMA client down South was nearly four times more likely to be foreclosed upon? Why did NAMA treat business people in the Republic of Ireland almost four times less favourably than those in Northern Ireland? Is it possible that Frank Cushnahan or Ronnie Hanna might have had anything to do with that?

 

The sale and purchase of Project Eagle by NAMA to Cerberus involved some of the biggest players in this country, both North and South as well as the United States, as many of these players have a vested interest in ensuring that a commission of investigation never takes place. Those involved in the deal include Cerberus, PIMCO, Fortress, Brown Rudnick, Tughans, Lazard, Hogan Lovells, A&L Goodbody, Linklaters, the Northern Ireland Law Society, the Northern Ireland Department of Finance, the Office of the First Minister of Northern Ireland, the Department of An Taoiseach and the Department of Finance, not to mention the many property developers who were involved in this whole process.

 

I would like to know why Fianna Fáil changed its mind on seeking a commission of investigation. I find that incredibly interesting. Has some sort of deal has been done with the Government or did some of these large powerful bodies get to it. I would love to know. If this Government refuses to initiate an investigation into Project Eagle, we will never uncover the true role played by NAMA in the sale of Project Eagle. If the Government refuses to initiate an investigation into Project Eagle, how can we be certain that similar loan sales which followed Project Eagle, such as Project Arrow to Cerberus, were conducted in a legal and transparent manner? Unless a commission of investigation is initiated, all work by Ronnie Hanna in his four years of head of asset recovery in NAMA will forever be under scrutiny.

 

To return to Fianna Fáil, I cannot believe it has changed its position on this matter. Anyone who reads its amendment will see its excuse for not seeking a commission of investigation. It is saying now that it wants all investigations completed before we have one. First, NAMA is not being investigated by anyone at the moment. Second, the National Crime Agency, NCA, in Northern Ireland or the Securities and Exchange Commission in America are in different in jurisdictions. If we had a commission of investigation it would not interfere one iota with theirs.

 

On 21 October 2015, Deputy Michael McGrath stated: "I am more convinced than ever that a full commission of investigation into Project Eagle is required." He further stated: "The committee [the Committee of Public Accounts] cannot get to the bottom of this issue because they can only go so far. A full statutory commission of investigation with extensive powers is required." He also stated: "The Government is hiding behind the Comptroller and Auditor General's value for money review of Project Eagle, the purpose of which is to ascertain whether the transaction delivered value for money."

 

I have checked the legal advice side and I am told that all investigations will not be complete for at least three years. Are we going to postpone doing anything about what is going on in Dublin for three years? Is this serving the Irish public and Irish taxpayers properly? There are huge concerns around what is going on? The Minister is not going to make them go away without a commission of investigation. I got legal advice on this and part of it states that the only criminal proceedings that are currently under way are in a different legal and territorial jurisdiction under UK law and deal even with a different subject matter. It also states the investigation of a commission in the Republic would focus on NAMA activity and any failure to act in the public interest of the Republic's citizens and any failure by NAMA to comply with its duties; the extent of involvement and awareness; and any failure in supervision or oversight by the Department of Finance and the Minister for Finance in the Republic. It further states this is a wholly different perspective and subject matter than the focus of the investigation in the North and, as such, is much too far removed to pose any real risk of endangering these criminal proceedings.

 

The Fianna Fáil amendment to the motion is explicit in this regard and notes that: "NAMA have advised that the UK NCA has confirmed that no aspect of the Agency's activities are under investigation". There is very little risk of an overlap and there are no solid grounds for Fianna Fáil attempting to hide behind this argument as justification for its support of the Government position that no commission of investigation is necessary despite the admission in Fianna Fáil's amendment that there are ongoing and legitimate concerns regarding aspects of the sale by NAMA of the Northern Ireland loan portfolio, Project Eagle.

It stinks to high heaven. I believe 100% that the Minister believes that as well.

 

 

Before he left the Chamber, the Minister for Finance, Deputy Michael Noonan, said if I had any allegations, I should make them without using Dáil privilege.

With regard to the two gentlemen who were arrested a few weeks ago, the former employees of NAMA who worked for it in Dublin, I have mentioned them several times outside this House. The Minister spoke about going to the relevant authorities. I have gone to the Garda on a number of occasions and to the National Crime Agency. I have not been hiding behind the door. The Minister said it is unreasonable to talk of par value. It is not unreasonable to talk of par value. No one expects us to get par value but if I hear NAMA say once more that it will make a profit, I will to vomit. The par value was €74.8 billion and it is going to get about €34 billion. The Irish taxpayer does not want to hear that it is making a profit because we are out about €40 billion. We were told NAMA was invented in order to put these assets into cold storage until there was recovery. What did we do? We could not offload them quick enough and we could not offload Project Eagle quick enough. Does the Minister of State know how much competitive tension there was in that bid when there was no one left but Cerberus and Fortress? There was zero competitive tension.

 

  Fianna Fáil Members mentioned that my motion should have been clearer and more specific. I specifically went as close to their motion of October 2015 as possible because I wanted to keep them on board. I could have included much more in the motion. I went as close as I possibly could to Fianna Fáil to give it no reason for coming out of it, yet they have done so.

 

  The three speakers from Fianna Fáil made some very good points today but they are totally inconsistent with their position of not having a commission of investigation now. It will not interfere in any way with what the NCA and the Securities and Exchange Commission in the United States are doing. The legal opinion provided to me makes the point that if at any stage during the commission's lifetime the Director of Public Prosecutions decides to institute criminal proceedings, and in the unlikely event that the Director of Public Prosecutions believes there was a conflict and that the commission's activities might endanger those criminal proceedings, it would be open to the Director of Public Prosecutions to write to the commission and set out her concerns regarding how matters should proceed, but this very unlikely potential eventuality is not adequate reason for the Oireachtas and the Government to shirk their duty in establishing a commission to begin a thorough investigation.

 

  The Minister for Finance, Deputy Michael Noonan, referred to the independence of NAMA but he had no problem interfering with NAMA in May 2010, March 2012 and July 2015, when it suited him. The truth be told, the Minister has the power to tell NAMA what to do in all areas, so long as the direction or order under section 14 is to do with achieving the purposes of the Act, which are set out in section 2. He could tell NAMA to do anything in this context. He could even have told it to honour a social mandate, which was in the small print. However, he chose not to. He chose to do whatever he liked. He has not wanted to hold NAMA to account. He is happy with its commercial mandate and happy we have taken a completely neoliberal position. We have sold assets for half what it cost to build them. We have sold the assets in Project Eagle to Cerberus for a song. It is going to make a fortune on it, yet the Minister is trying to tell us we got the best possible return. If we got the best possible return, Cerberus could not be making a fraction of what it is going to make on it. It does not stack up. It is rubbish.

 

  No one would be well having contemplated what is happening here. We have put a lot into this in trying to get the truth out. There is nothing I have said in here or outside this Chamber that has been proved to be wrong. I want the Minister of State, Deputy Eoghan Murphy, to try to contradict that because it is not true. I have not told one lie in here or outside the Chamber.

 

  This is not going away. If it is the last thing I do, I am going to get to the truth of this and I am going to expose what has gone on. We are setting up an organisation called namaleaks.ie. We have got help from the people who fixed up Snowden, The Intercept, and we are going to invite members of the public to come forward with information where they feel they have been badly treated by NAMA, banks or investment funds. We are inviting insiders with information, who will have 100% confidentiality, to send us documents that are truthful in order to address this rottenness that exists in how we do business in this country and how they do business in Northern Ireland. They are no worse up there than we are down here, there is a pair of us in it. Our credibility at international level is going to suffer unless the Government has the gumption and the balls to actually go after the truth, because it is not showing any. I am gutted that Fianna Fáil is not showing it either.”

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32nd Dáil -

Dáil Diary No 1- 29th March 2016.

 

Last week the Dáil opened for one day, Tuesday March 22nd, and I got the opportunity to speak for the ten minutes on the housing crisis in Ireland today. For 5 years, the last Government failed to deal with a problem that continued to worsen every day of the lifetime of the Fine Gael / Labour Government. Just like the Fianna Fail/ Green government before them, they were happy to pursue a neoliberal agenda which prioritises the interests of the Financial Institutions and Big Business., and not the interest of the people of Ireland, whose living standards were eroded by Austerity. Hence, the low priority given to the peoples need for quality, affordable housing. While their 'Keep the Recovery Going' line came a cropper in the election, as little more than 20% experienced it, the biggest achievement of the Fine Gael / Labour Government was how it managed political spin and controlled the mainstream media, locally and nationally, which happens to have a vested interest in the status quo and neoliberalism. Here’s my ten minute Dáil contribution. -

"I also want to avoid repeating what we have been saying here for the past five years and I want to look at what we should do now. We should learn from our mistakes over the past five years. I remember on 15 January 2014 having a serious argument with the Minister for Finance about inviting and encouraging the investment funds to avail of huge tracts of property in Ireland, having to pay no tax on it, no tax on their profits on the rental and no capital gains if they stayed for seven years. It was a crazy arrangement.

 The idea that we now have a professional landlord and that everything will be cleaned up and it will be great for everybody does not make much sense if a person cannot afford to pay this new fancy landlord who is charging 40% more than was being charged before. The price has gone off the Richter scale. There are huge problems in every sector of housing and there are huge challenges for the next Government. We have to get over the idea that the State should not build local authority social housing. Doing this is a challenge. I noticed only two weeks ago that the British Shadow Chancellor recommended that Britain should now take a five-year exit from putting infrastructure money on the books and making it subject to the usual fiscal rules. Germany and France broke that rule in the past and got away with it. We need to borrow money on the markets at 1% and invest in local authority social housing. It is imperative that we do it and we should not have to use PPPs and pay 15% to do it. That is 15 times the money and it does not make sense. If Europe turned us down, given that we have a housing emergency, it would mean Europe just does not care about us anymore. It would not make any sense.

 The private sector had been driven out of the market by NAMA and the banks conducting fire sales of assets and sites for less than half their value. One can say that no one knew the value of the assets. We have had that debate here several times but things do have value. A house has the value of what it cost to put there on the day it is sold. NAMA has been selling property for less than half what it costs to build on that particular day. That, for my money, is bad business and I do not see how the State could have allowed it to happen. How in God's name did the Government allow Project Arrow to be sold last December by NAMA? Residential units in the Republic of Ireland were sold for peanuts. The only ones winning are the investment funds. The Irish people are paying the balance of the money that is missing and then the investment funds chase the individuals concerned for a second whammy. One could not make it up.

 Let us say the EU gives us permission to break the fiscal rules for a five-year period. Will the next Government then be prepared to borrow in the region of €8 billion or €10 billion to invest in local authority social housing and how should we best go about it?

 We have not got enough time to discuss the ins and outs of it but regarding Part V and the question of 10% versus 20%, I do not agree with Fianna Fáil's point. We will get nobody to build if we take 20% of units off them. I do not think they understand how the system works because when the builder provides Part V units, he gets only the agricultural land value for his site. If he pays in the region of €100,000 per unit for it, he loses that. If he loses it on 10%, fair enough, but if it is on 20%, we will not get him to build at all. I suggest that we need the State to buy out 20% of it from the builder. The Central Bank rules are solid. The idea that people would have to come up with 20% of the money to buy their house is not the craziest notion in the world and there would be fewer people running into trouble. However, it places a new obligation on the State to provide housing. We need to provide quality State housing and not ghettos, and there has to be a whole new way of thinking about how we build them, in terms of whether the will be fit for families. We have never built apartments in this country that were fit for families. The legislation before Christmas reducing the quality of the unit in order to entice the private sector in is not what is required. That was an own goal and is a crazy way to go. It will not help matters. That was not the big factor keeping the private sector out of the market.

 We have to take a whole new approach. For starters, if the Central Bank rule is to stick, and I think it should, social housing will have to come to about 30%, up from between 10% and 15% over the years. I would argue that every development that goes up in Ireland today should have 30% social housing. The builder would provide 10% of it and the State would buy out 20% of it because we want to stop ghettoisation. This idea of building huge blocks of units that are all social is nonsense; it has not worked. We need to get away from that and we have to look at the type of unit we are building because we cannot cover the country in concrete.

 We will have to go down the apartment route for living space, for the long term rather than, as it is at present, for transitory purposes. People cannot raise a family in an apartment block in Ireland today; it just does not work.

If the State is prepared to borrow money at an affordable price and challenge Europe so that we can borrow money at a rate of 1%, the State would be able to go out there and build units, and buy 20% of all private developments where there was already a 10% social provision. As a kick-start, the 20,000 units that NAMA is supposed to provide, which are currently 90% private and 10% social, should be 50:50.

The biggest problem facing housing today is unaffordability. People will not be able to buy the apartments or houses that NAMA intends to build for the private sector. They say there will be an average selling price of €300,000. How many of those who are in trouble today with regard to keeping a roof over their heads will get the money to buy a unit for €300,000? Bugger all. Therefore, these units are not for those who most need them. It is outrageous that private housing will outnumber social housing by nine to one on land that the Irish people already own, which is NAMA's land.

At present, nobody in the private sector wants to build in Ireland. The banks would not even finance it. If I had a site tomorrow and I got planning permission for it, I would not get funding from a bank in Ireland for it because it is not attractive enough for banks. I recall that when the Government came to office five years ago it stated that it would set up a State investment bank that could do these things. Let the next Government do it. We need a functioning State investment bank that will lend to people to build.

The other matter I wanted to raise with the Minister, on which I argued tooth and nail in here with him and the Minister of State, Paudie Coffey, is land-banking. My God. How big a problem is this? It is crazy that the Minister has refused to do anything about it. His vacant site levy was a joke. A person who owned land and who had borrowed money for it did not have to pay the levy at all, and if he put a few horses on it, it was not even vacant. It was an absolute joke of an effort to deal with the issue of land-banking. Will the next Government have the appetite to do it? It is a no-brainer. It drives the cost of land up to an unbelievable degree. They are building three-bedroom houses 20 km from here today that will sell for €345,000. I can tell the Minister that if he travels 20 km outside any city in Italy, he can buy a house for less than half of that.

Is the Minister aware that if a house is sold in Ireland today for €300,000, more than 50% of this ends up in the State coffers? The high price of housing in Ireland has suited the State. It has not suited the Irish people. We need the next Government to take an honest approach to every aspect of housing."

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Deputy Mick Wallace:   I have been co-operating with An Garda Síochána on a number of issues relating to NAMA and it has been back to me regarding some of these issues. As the Tánaiste is aware, I have asked many questions in the Chamber about NAMA but I have not got many answers. In fact I have got none. I have put some of the questions and others to NAMA directly and I have got answers from it, some satisfactory and some not. One of the questions I asked about Project Eagle was whether Ronnie Hanna, along with Frank Cushnahan or David Watters, ever met any US investment fund personnel. NAMA's reply was "No", that Mr. Hanna had no such meetings with these individuals. We now know that Ronnie Hanna, head of asset recovery in NAMA, did meet at least one of the US investment funds. NAMA's answer to my question is not true.

PIMCO pulled out of the Project Eagle deal because its compliance department would not agree to the success fee. Cerberus replaced it and paid the success fee. What would PIMCO have got for this fee? What did Cerberus get for the fee? It got insider information and the ability to affect the deal. An executive of NAMA, Ronnie Hanna, was part of a cabal to seek payment for affecting the biggest property deal in the history of the State. The three individuals, Ronnie Hanna, David Watters and Frank Cushnahan, had information above and beyond what was available in the data room. David Watters had reviewed the business plan for many of the debtors.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:     The Deputy is naming many names-----

Deputy Peter Mathews:     We need them.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:     -----and it is a long-standing convention that accusations should not be made against people outside of the House.

Deputy Mick Wallace:     These are all in the public domain.

Deputy Robert Dowds:     Go before the Committee of Public Accounts on this.

Deputy Mick Wallace:     Frank Cushnahan was looking after the political side in the North and Ronnie Hanna was looking after matters inside NAMA in Dublin. We are not talking about Belfast; this is Dublin. This is at the heart of NAMA in Dublin, and this is on the Tánaiste's watch. The Taoiseach assured us that NAMA had dealt comprehensively with all matters put to it at the Committee of Public Accounts, but what is this worth now? We need an independent commission of inquiry. I realise that Fine Gael certainly does not want one, but the Tánaiste is the leader of the Labour Party and she should ensure there is an independent commission of inquiry.

The Tánaiste:     With regard to Project Eagle, I am advised the loan sale was executed in a proper manner, and despite all the different charges the Deputy has made, and charges against named individuals who are not in a position to comment or defend their good name in the House-----

Deputy Bernard J. Durkan:     Hear, hear.

The Tánaiste:     -----but the Deputy has named them nonetheless, I am told the facts are there are no claims of wrongdoing against NAMA. However, the Deputy clearly has issues with regard to the people he has named.

Clearly, at the base or back of his particular complaints is probably his own unfortunate experience, to which he has referred on many occasions. Understandably, he has a very strong vested interest in, and probably even stronger feelings about, what happened in the context of the collapse in the values of properties when the economy and property valuations collapsed. A portfolio worth almost €6 billion, like many people's personal domestic houses, lost 60%, 70%, 80% or 90% of its value. If the Deputy is saying this loss of value can be attributed entirely to NAMA, and not to the actual impact of one of the most devastating property crashes in the world, then I want to acknowledge he has suffered.

Deputy Peter Mathews:     It was a banking crash that led to a property crash.

The Tánaiste:     As somebody who was involved in the building trade, I know from some of the public records and the media that he suffered. This does not mean that because he feels a very strong personal sense of grievance, which I understand, that his claims of wrongdoing against NAMA stand up. I said to him before on this that NAMA is answerable to the Committee of Public Accounts. I strongly advise the Deputy to take the issues he has raised here, if they are additional to the issues he has already raised, to the Committee of Public Accounts and seek to have them examined there. He knows as well, because we discussed it on a previous occasion, that in the North the Comptroller and Auditor General there is conducting a value for money review into the Northern Ireland sale, and I strongly recommend that the Deputy seeks to get the findings of this report and what it will have to say.

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald:     That report is happening here and not in the North.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:     Under Standing Order 59 there is a mechanism whereby a Deputy can give prior notice to the Ceann Comhairle concerning matters in the nature of being defamatory and Deputy Wallace should avail of this. I ask him not to name people who are outside the House.

Deputy Mick Wallace:     Any allegations I have made against NAMA have zero to do with my business. I never had interaction with NAMA through my business. I did not go into NAMA. The Tánaiste seems to be deliberately failing to interpret what I have said. I have given her some new information and I have outlined how I was told untruths by NAMA when it was questioned. The Tánaiste does not seem to have a problem with this. This is shocking.

Deputy Pearse Doherty:     Hear, hear.

Deputy Mick Wallace:     It has nothing to do with me; it has to do with the people. NAMA has failed to serve them properly. There are serious question marks. An executive of NAMA, Ronnie Hanna, in Dublin, deliberately interfered in the process. Does the Tánaiste not have a problem with this? Is she just going to let this flow on and not look for a proper independent commission of investigation into this? Is this possible? I find it hard to credit.

Deputy Eric Byrne:     Say it before the Committee of Public Accounts.

Deputy Robert Dowds:     Go before the Committee of Public Accounts on this.

Deputy Mick Wallace:     I will put a number of questions to the Tánaiste, and she should get answers to them from NAMA. It might tell her the truth. What date and time and to whom was the Fortress bid submitted? What date and time and to whom was the Cerberus bid submitted? Were the bidders advised that the bids were to be the best and final bids? Were they advised that the reserve was £1.24 billion? When and by whom was Fortress advised that its bid was not successful? Did Fortress offer in writing or verbally to increase its bid? Mr. Hanna resigned six months to the day after the Cerberus deal went through. Why?

Deputy Arthur Spring:     Does Deputy Wallace know the answers to any of those questions?

The Tánaiste:     I appreciate the Deputy's concern in the matter, and if he has had no contact with NAMA, I accept that, but I certainly have seen in the public media and I am aware that he was a very fine developer and builder who lost out, as so many others did, in the course of the property collapse in Ireland.

Deputy Clare Daly:     What has that got to do with it?

Deputy Peter Mathews:     That has nothing do with it. How dare the Tánaiste say that? The Tánaiste should withdraw that remark as it has nothing to do with Deputy Wallace's question.

The Tánaiste:     The Deputy has set out on Leaders' Questions a series of very detailed questions relating to a specific institution - NAMA - that is answerable to the Committee of Public Accounts. The Deputy is, I suppose, using a trick deployed by lawyers. He is asking a question and he is very confident he knows the answer to it but I have had no notice of it.

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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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