Wednesday 29 March 2017

High Court judge lashes NAMA over 'inordinate' delays to cases

Tim Healy and Emmet Oliver

A HIGH Court judge has said delays by NAMA in making decisions were frustrating the work of the Commercial Court and imposing unnecessary additional costs on the taxpayer.

Mr Justice Peter Kelly said he could not have a situation where the work of the Commercial Court is "sterilised" because NAMA is considering matters over "an inordinate period".

A number of cases were delayed due to NAMA not making decisions, which Mr Justice Kelly said was "of no benefit to anyone" and he was not prepared to tolerate it.

The judge, who manages the Commercial Court list, made the remarks after being told yesterday a NAMA decision was still awaited on a proposal from the Minister for the Environment made some months ago in an effort to settle a €40m claim by Durkan New Homes (DNH) against the minister as successor to a state agency, the Affordable Homes Partnership (AHP).

A spokesman for NAMA said last night the agency was not part of the Durkan proceedings and had not been in court yesterday to give its views. It was not aware of any other similar cases, said a spokesman.

The case relates to an alleged failure to honour a contract under which AHP agreed to swap Harcourt Terrace garda station in Dublin for 215 affordable housing units in the greater Dublin area.

NAMA was asked on May 30 last to make a decision on the minister's proposal, which had then been with NAMA for a few weeks, but the judge was told that the decision was still outstanding.

Pending that decision, the sides were concerned necessary steps to proceed with the case would incur substantial costs related to legal disclosure of documents.

When the judge asked if NAMA had indicated when a decision would be made, Bill Shipsey, counsel for DNH, said they had been told last week it was being considered "higher up" in NAMA.

James Doherty, counsel for the minister, said if the proposal was acceptable to NAMA then it was acceptable to DNH and the minister hoped there would be a decision soon as he did not want to spend money on litigation unnecessarily.

Taxpayer

The judge said he was "sure the taxpayer feels the same" and noted the taxpayer is funding NAMA.

When the judge suggested the minister was in a better position than the court to get results from NAMA, Mr Doherty said solicitors for both sides had already written to NAMA stressing they needed an answer.

Ruling on procedural issues, Mr Justice Kelly noted he had previously provisionally adjourned the proceedings because of settlement talks.

The action by DNH, Sandford Road, Ranelagh, arises from a contract of December 2007 between DNH and the Affordable Homes Partnership for purchase of the Harcourt Terrace station site by December 2008 in exchange for 215 affordable housing units in the greater Dublin area.

DNH claims the units were provided but the station sale was not completed as required. It claims it was told in March 2009 the building of a new garda station at Kevin Street had been delayed and the gardai wanted to stay in Harcourt Terrace for another two years.

Irish Independent

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