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Friday 9 December 2016

Cowen had sign-off on funding for Docklands body

De Burca accuses Gormley of sitting on report's findings

Published 22/02/2010 | 05:00

TAOISEACH Brian Cowen had personal responsibility for signing off on the borrowing bills of a debt-laden docklands agency at the centre of a fresh political row.

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The disclosure came as Green defector Deirdre de Burca accused her former leader John Gormley of sitting on the findings of a report into the Dublin Docklands Development Authority (DDDA).

Ms de Burca said the report would cause "serious discomfort" for Fianna Fail and added: "All I can say is that there is a marked reluctance to confront Fianna Fail or to cause instability in government."

Under the act setting up the DDDA in 1997, Mr Cowen as Finance Minister -- and then Environment Minister Dick Roche -- were responsible for authorising all of the agency's borrowing.

During this time, the DDDA was granted permission to extend its borrowing limit so it could take part in the disastrous purchase of the Irish Glass site in Ringsend, Dublin.

The DDDA is now €213m in debt and needs a government bailout.

The report into the DDDA threatens further tensions between Fianna Fail and the Greens, who have been publicly blamed by former Defence Minister Willie O'Dea for forcing him to resign last week.

Ms de Burca yesterday turned on Mr Gormley by accusing him of effectively propping up the Government through inaction. She warned the findings of the report, which was carried out by DDDA chairwoman Professor Niamh Brennan, would contain "evidence of serious malpractice".

But Mr Gormley pledged to publish the report as soon as possible and "without fear or favour".

Among the issues it examined was whether the DDDA, set up to regenerate the dilapidated docklands area, followed government procurement rules in tendering for goods and services.

Mr Cowen was head of the Department of Finance and Mr Roche was head of the Department of Environment when the DDDA took part in the purchase of the Irish Glass site in Ringsend in Dublin in 2006.

The €412m purchase was carried out in conjunction with developer Bernard McNamara and businessman Derek Quinlan and was primarily funded with a €293m loan from Anglo Irish Bank and AIB.

But since the property crash, the site is worth just €50m -- and the Government has to bail out the DDDA due to the losses it has incurred on the deal.

The DDDA's former board members include ex-Anglo Irish Bank chairman Sean FitzPatrick and former Anglo Irish Bank director Lar Bradsaw.

Borrowing

The Department of Finance was last night unable to provide details of Mr Cowen's involvement in the DDDA's borrowing for the purchase of the site.

Neither Mr Cowen nor Mr Roche could be contacted for comment.

But under the act setting up the DDDA in 1997, all of its borrowing had to be authorised by the Minister for Finance and the Minister for Environment.

Fine Gael environment spokesman Phil Hogan said that "the question arises to the extent of approval that was given directly by Dick Roche and Brian Cowen in that regard".

Ms de Burca said publication of the report would probably cause a degree of discomfort to Fianna Fail. But a spokesman for Mr Gormley said the completed DDDA report had only been received on February 5 -- and was with the Attorney General for legal checking.

The probe into the DDDA was commissioned at the request of Mr Gormley last year and is split into two sections -- one covering the finances of the agency and the other covering its corporate governance. Each is being carried out separately.

Mr Gormley's spokesman said that Ms de Burca's claims were "completely without foundation", saying she had never raised questions about the report at Green Party parliamentary party meetings.

But Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny called on Mr Gormley to publish the report into the DDDA.

"It is important that in an area as significant as this that full accountability and transparency be available," he said.

Labour leader Eamon Gilmore said: "There is only one way to clear this up -- for the minister to publish the documents immediately."

Irish Independent

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