Developer O'Flynn 'proud' of horse racing involvement
CORK developer Michael O'Flynn has defended his ongoing involvement in horse racing against claims that it is inappropriate given his status as the head of one of Nama's top ten most indebted borrowers.
The decision by the chairman and managing director of O'Flynn Construction to bring several of his racehorses, including Elysian Rock and Shane Rock, to compete in last week's Christmas racing festival at Leopardstown took many in the industry by surprise, given the public outcry that followed a recent RTE Prime Time investigation into the lifestyles of Ireland's biggest developers, including Mr O'Flynn.
In the course of the programme, the Cork developer was secretly filmed travelling by helicopter to a race meeting at Downroyal to see one of his horses, China Rock, compete.
Asked by the Sunday Independent if he believed his ownership of racehorses was still appropriate in view of recent remarks by Nama chairman Frank Daly that developers would have to curb their lifestyles and have to sell off their "jets, their yachts, their Bentleys or whatever", Mr O'Flynn said in a statement that he was "proud" of his personal ongoing involvement in the horse racing industry.
"My family and I, like many other people from all walks of life, have been supporters of the horse racing industry for many years and I am proud of my personal ongoing involvement in what is a very important industry in Ireland," he said.
The Cork-based developer added that as he had always operated a "strict policy of not providing personal guarantees for any borrowings associated with the O'Flynn Group", his personal affairs were not linked with those of the O'Flynn Group. He also stressed that his companies' borrowings had only been transferred to Nama as this was required under legislation.
Mr O'Flynn pointed out that there had been no reduction in the amount the O'Flynn group of companies owed on those development loans since their transfer on to the books of the State agency. He said that he looked forward to engaging with Nama on his companies' business plans in early 2011.
But while Mr O'Flynn remains adamant that his continuing involvement in the so-called sport of kings is appropriate in the Nama era, others are not so sure.
Approached by the Sunday Independent in the parade ring at Leopardstown last Tuesday and asked for his views on Mr O'Flynn's presence and his horses' participation at the race meeting, Fine Gael TD Sean Barrett said: "I don't understand the situation to be honest with you. I mean the only man who can answer that question for you is himself [Michael O'Flynn]. I don't know what his personal or other circumstances are. I saw the Prime Time programme [on the developers]."
Asked for his views on that programme, Mr Barrett said: "I was appalled actually. The idea that the ordinary members of the public are making such sacrifices in terms of deductions from their salaries, and they see this sort of carry on, people [developers] openly being excessive." Referring specifically to the footage shown on Mr O'Flynn in the same broadcast, he continued: "Going to a race meeting in a helicopter at a time when we're all asked to pull in our horns, I don't think it's the wisest thing to be doing," Mr Barrett added.