Thursday 27 July 2017

Noonan is pressed again about his handling of Siteserv deal

Minister for Finance Michael Noonan said his department gave full and complete answers to any questions about the Siteserv deal
Minister for Finance Michael Noonan said his department gave full and complete answers to any questions about the Siteserv deal
John Downing

John Downing

Finance Minister Michael Noonan has again defended his handling of the Siteserv controversy as he faced allegations that he misled the Dáil on the issue.

Mr Noonan yesterday faced renewed claims he had not told the truth about the deal, which the Opposition says cost the taxpayer €109m.

But Mr Noonan said his department gave full and complete answers to any questions about the deal.

He said any queries posed by Independent TD Catherine Murphy, through Dáil questions or under Freedom of Information requests, were "answered in full".

"What they didn't give out was background information and the deputy knew quite well she could get background information by way of a Freedom of Information request and she did that," the Finance Minister said on RTÉ's 'The Week in Politics'.

Rules

"She did a great job from a scrutiny point but I did a reasonable job in co-operating under the parliamentary rules," Mr Noonan added.

The programme's presenter, Áine Lawlor, asked whether Mr Noonan had only revealed information which he wanted to reveal.

However, Mr Noonan took exception to this question - and also referred back to testy exchanges with RTÉ radio presenter Sean O'Rourke last Wednesday.

"I don't believe that you or Sean O'Rourke or anyone in RTÉ has reviewed the replies to the questions and you are simply repeating an allegation made," Mr Noonan said.

He added: "They are full and complete answers."

Kildare North TD Ms Murphy, as well as Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin, has repeatedly accused Mr Noonan of not revealing full information on the deal.

Siteserv was sold for €45.5m to a company owned by businessman Denis O'Brien.

The bulk of the company's €150m debts originally to Anglo Irish Bank were lost and there is also controversy about a further payment of €5m to Siteserv shareholders to speed the deal through to completion.

Ms Murphy began asking questions about the Siteserv deal last year and says she received no information for long periods.

Quinn family

Meanwhile, the €2.3bn dispute over loans between the Quinn family and the former Anglo Irish Bank appears to be heading for the law courts, Junior Finance Minister Simon Harris has said.

Mr Harris said talks between the two parties had broken down and the case was "likely be settled by the courts".

The Fine Gael TD for Wicklow also defended the Finance Minister's recent handling of the Siteserv issue. He further insisted that failure to reach agreement with the Quinn family was not caused by the Siteserv controversy.

The junior minister said the decision not to continue negotiations in the Quinn case had been taken before details on Siteserv became public.

Weekend reports suggested that the review of all IBRC bank transactions over €10m had affected the fragile negotiations on the Quinn case.

It is understood that negotiations had focused on the Quinn family dropping their suit against IBRC over the loans, while actions against the family over alleged asset stripping would also be dropped.

But insisting the Siteserv row and the Quinn case were not linked, Mr Harris told RTÉ radio: "I am not privy directly to the talks.

"But my understanding is the special liquidator was ad idem with others with the view that this wouldn't have been successful with negotiations," he added.

A deal with the Quinn family would have speeded up the winding up of IBRC.

The so-called Irish Bank Resolution Corporation was formed in 2011 to replace Anglo Irish Bank and Irish Nationwide Building Society.

In February 2013, the Government decided that IBRC should, in turn, be wound up.

Failure to agree a complex compromise means that lengthy and expensive litigation could now result.

Lawyers expect the proceedings to begin in the coming weeks.

Mr Harris also defended the Finance Minister's handling of the Siteserv issue.

He said Mr Noonan had answered all questions "very comprehensively" and had changed the reporting rules between the Department of Finance and IBRC bank.

Irish Independent

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