Wednesday 16 August 2017

Come clean on political money, says Gormley

Green Party leader calls on parties to put hands up on any donations

EAMON KEANE

IN AN exclusive interview with the Sunday Independent, Green Party leader John Gormley has called on Fianna Fail and other parties to reveal exactly how much money they have received from big business and banks in recent years. In a move guaranteed to increase tensions within the Coalition partners, Deputy Gormley said that ''any political party that took money from developers or the banks or builders must come clean. Come clean and put your hands up. How much did you get, from who and when?"

In a wide-ranging interview, the Green Party leader also accused the country's banks of telling "blatant lies" to the Government on the state of their loan books. Minister Gormley also revealed that the General Election will be held in early or mid-March, rebutting claims by Cabinet colleague Noel Dempsey that it could be held as late as mid-June. The Green Deputy for Dublin South East said, however, that he couldn't predict if he would hold his own seat.

The Minister was speaking in the wake of RTE's Prime Time programme and the Sunday Independent's revelations that some Nama developers were transferring assets into their wives' names. Minister Gormley said it was now time to seriously look at the links between developers, banks and politicians.

''We are absolutely intent on having the amount given by bankers and developers called to account. Our party wants declared every corporate donation that banks and developers were giving to political parties. Any political party that took money from developers or the banks or builders must come clean. Come clean and put your hands up. How much did you get, from who and when?"

The Green Party leader also attacked the banks on the quality of information given to Nama and the Government: "In relation to the banks and what they told us about their finances, they were either hopelessly misinformed or else told us blatant lies. It is very hard not to come to the conclusion that they lied to us."

The Minister said there was no need to create new legislation to tackle the phenomenon of asset transfers to developers' wives. "I always believe the developers should be pursued and they are being pursued. I don't know what the figures are.''

However, when informed that only three developers had so far agreed not to transfer assets to spouses, he was appalled. ''If that is the case, nobody is going to be happy. I am not sure, however, as to what extent it can be done retrospectively. There is legislation to catch some of them, it is robust. However, you need to be careful in terms of asset transfers made pre-Nama.''

On the point that the Government and Nama both pay rents to developers that they are bailing out, the Minister did not rule out a move to offset the rent against any debts due: 'Anything that is possible needs to be done," he said.

Minister Gormley also defended Nama's overall record against criticism that it is a failed entity.

''At the time it was set up in 2009 people were saying that Nama would lose money, but it hasn't. They said that it would pay over the odds for loans, and again it hasn't. Make no mistake, whoever comes into power -- and people seems to think it will be Labour and Fine Gael -- will continue with Nama.''

On the subject of the General Election, Minister Gormley refuted claims by his Fianna Fail Cabinet colleague Noel Dempsey that it could be held as late as mid-June. ''There is no reason that it should not be held in early March. I have always said that when we complete the pieces of legislation, then we should hold the General Election.We have the Finance Bill. I calculate that the election should be possible in March once it passes without too much delay.''

When it was put to the Minister that Irish people are disgusted at the fact they have bailed out an elite who appear unaccountable, he said, ''It is absolutely appalling when you see what happened. As someone who has repeatedly said they have to be brought to justice, in the Greens we did set up the committee on white- collar criminality. Already you are seeing files going to the DPP. People are demanding justice. Under the new Planning Act, the mindless rezoning of the past will not be repeated. We know now that when people at the top make decisions, it will have to be evidence-based and in line with things like the Spatial Strategy.''

Finally, with his seat in serious jeopardy, will John Gormley still be TD for Dublin South East next summer?

''It is up to the people. I hope that the work I have done will count.''

Sunday Independent

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