Tuesday 6 December 2016

Outrage as developer Johnny Ronan uses Nazi slogan in attack on Nama

Banking Inquiry won't redact 'Arbeit Macht Frei' from web

Kevin Doyle and Rachel Lavin

Published 25/09/2015 | 02:30

The words ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’ on the gates of the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz in Poland
The words ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’ on the gates of the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz in Poland
Johnny Ronan

A German phrase which is widely associated with Nazi concentration camps will not be redacted from Celtic Tiger developer Johnny Ronan's statement to the Banking Inquiry.

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The businessman has caused outrage in the Jewish community by signing off his submission with 'Arbeit Macht Frei', which translates as 'work sets you free'.

Former justice minister Alan Shatter has led calls for the phrase - in German and as Gaeilge - to be removed from the statement which was published on the Oireachtas website yesterday.

Mr Ronan stresses throughout his 21-page written submission that he felt his companies had worked hard but ultimately Nama had destroyed them.

Mr Shatter said it was beyond his comprehension that the "notorious and diabolically misleading" phrase which hung at the entrance to concentration camps, including Auschwitz, was published on the Oireachtas website.

He called on Mr Ronan, who played major roles in the development of the Google Headquarters, National Convention Centre and Spencer Dock, to withdraw the remarks, and on the Banking Inquiry to remove the phrase from his submission.

"I believe it is entirely inappropriate that such a phrase appear on the Irish Parliament's website available for global viewing," Mr Shatter said.

He noted that parts of Mr Ronan's statement had been redacted and asked "what consideration, if any, was given to redacting this offensive and despicable phrase which is synonymous with Nazi inhumanity".

Speaking again on the issue on RTE's Morning Ireland this morning, Mr Shatter couldn't understand Mr Ronan's "thought process, his moral compass".

He said he didn't understand the point Mr Ronan was trying to make, adding that he found it difficult to believe that there is anyone who does not understand the origin of the phrase.

"You don't have to be a Dail deputy, you don't have to be Jewish, you just have to be a member of the human community to find this offensive," he said.

Mr Shatter said that he hoped Mr Ronan would explain his thought process, and would have apply to have the phrase removed from his statement.

Sources told the Irish Independent that Mr Ronan's submission would not be censored.

The Joint Committee of Inquiry into the Bank Inquiry reviews all written statements for legal or commercial issues before they are made public but does not alter language used by witnesses as this is outside its remit.

"This does not mean that the committee endorses or approves in any way of the views or language used by any individual witness in their statement," said the source.

Chairman of the Jewish Representative Council of Ireland Maurice Cohen said it was "incomprehensible that such a phrase would be used and then translated in to Irish".

"We can only surmise that it was used in complete ignorance of its origin and without a realisation of the offence that it would cause to Irish Jewish people and to anyone who lost family at Auschwitz or in the Holocaust," he said,

Stuart Rosenblatt of the Irish Jewish Genealogical Society went further, saying that the developer should visit Auschwitz and "experience it himself".

Thirty eight members of Mr Rosenblatt's family were murdered by the Nazis.

"If he really thinks work makes you free, he should go down and see how free the people were when they were in Auschwitz and have the experience and then come back with a comment with some background knowledge," he said.

Elsewhere in his statement, Mr Ronan launched a scathing attack on Nama, claiming it made decisions based on personal likes and dislikes and destroyed his business.

He said that having civil servants run what is described as the largest property company in the world was "akin to asking an accountant to fly an airplane or a butcher to perform heart surgery".

The founder of Treasury Holdings said that nobody who had debts in Nama was willing to "challenge" the agency or "disclose the trust about how they operate, for fear that Nama will immediately enforce their debts".

Treasury Holdings was one of the best known development companies in Ireland during the boom years, with interests here, in London and in China.

After the crash, it was caught with huge debts that were transferred into Nama. The company instantly became one of Nama's biggest creditors.

Irish Independent

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