Sunday 23 October 2016

Banking inquiry: Too many houses were built, we made mistakes - construction industry's ex chief

Clodagh Sheehy

Published 13/05/2015 | 07:55

CONSTRUCTION Industry Federation (CIF) boss Tom Parlon is giving evidence at the banking inquiry today.

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The former PD politician and IFA president is addressing the role of the construction industry body in the run up to to crash and the fallout from it.

The committee is also hearing from the former director general of the CIF, Liam Kelleher.

“We made mistakes, I made mistakes”, the former head of the Construction Industry Federation, Liam Kelleher, has told the Banking Inquiry.

He said they had not listened to contrarian voices, “we were part of it, I was part of it and to that extend I apologise”.

Too many houses were built and too much of the economy was dependent on the sector, said Mr Kelleher.

Construction activity had reached “unsustainable levels during the boom”.

When the downturn came the industry lost 250,000 jobs which had a “massive detrimental impact on the economy which is still being felt today, he added.

The construction sector at the moment, said Mr Kelleher, “still accounts for the highest number of people out of work in this country.”

Current CIF director general, Mr Tom Parlon said the country had become over dependent on construction and “as leaders of the industry we have to accept reponsibility”

They were being told by all the experts there would be a “soft landing” and “time has shown that approach was wrong.

“We should have taken greater heed of the warnings even if they were going against the mainstream.

“We should have urged caution”, he added.

Mr Parlon said that “thankfully’ now the industry was going in the “right direction”

Regarding NAMA he said the industry has “massive concerns” when it was being set up.  The CIF believed now that NAMA was “doing a good job on handling a very difficult role”

Mr Kelleher explained to Deputy Eoghan Murphy that in the run up to the peak as head of the CIF he had felt “pressure” right across the board, from all political parties. to increase construction.

The belief was that the industry was trying to catch up on deficits that had arisen over many years and all the indications looked good.

He said that the CIF had never donated to a political party.  Asked if they had ever given “gifts” like a bottle or wine he responded “not in my time.

Mr Kelleher stressed that the Irish economy needs a sustainable construction sector which operates at about 12pc of GNP.

‘That will not only be good for the industry but it is also in the interests of the wider economy.”

Chief executive of the Institute of Professional Auctioneers and Valuers, Pat Davitt, who was appointed in 2013, is also giving evidence.

The role of auditors will also be heard.

Managing partner of Deloitte Ireland, Pat Cullen, and Gerry Fitzpatrick, head of Audit at Deloitte Ireland, will also give evidence as the Nexus phase of the inquiry continues.

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