independent

Sunday 20 April 2014

Noonan is withholding department Barclay files, Martin says

FIANNA Fail leader Micheal Martin has dragged Finance Minister Michael Noonan and his most senior civil servant into the growing NAMA controversy.

He has accused the Department of Finance of withholding information after it only granted the release of six out of 19 files requested by his party under the Freedom of Information Act earlier this year.

Fianna Fail has confirmed that the files include emails between the head of the Department of Finance and the key representative of the billionaire Barclay brothers. They were involved in a bitter struggle with Irish property tycoon Paddy McKillen over the ownership of a group of luxury London hotels, which had been financed with loans from Anglo Irish Bank.

Emails released to Fianna Fail under the Freedom of Information Act show Department of Finance secretary general John Moran was discussing the efforts of the Barclay brothers to buy Mr McKillen's loans from IBRC -- the former Anglo Irish Bank.

In the Dail, Mr Martin called on the Department of Finance to allow the remaining 13 files requested by his party to be released.

OBJECTION

"If we are to have confidence and trust, I ask the Taoiseach to say to the Department that it should withdraw any objection it has to releasing all of the material into the public domain in order to show it has nothing to hide," he said.

Mr Martin went on to say that the relationship between the Department of Finance and NAMA must be clarified very quickly.

"When one sees the Department of Finance withholding documentation that might relate to overtures or representations made by a very significant player to the department, it appears as though people are hiding something and using Freedom of Information mechanisms to prevent material from getting out," he said.

However, Taoiseach Enda Kenny hit back at Mr Martin by pointing out that decisions on granting Freedom of Information requests were made by civil servants and not by ministers.

"The officer makes his or her decisions independently," he said.

In the files released to Fianna Fail earlier this year, Mr Moran discussed the Barclay brothers' efforts to buy the loans of Mr McKillen from the IBRC in a series of emails with representatives of the British tycoons.

In the emails, Mr Moran passes on queries about Mr McKillen's loans to other officials directly involved in dealing with the IBRC.

"In any event, I would mention that should you feel you are not making the right progress for whatever reason with the IBRC, they remain at your disposal (as of course do I if you are unable to reach them)," he said in an email to the Barclay brothers' representatives.

The Department of Finance has said that the remaining files are not being released under the Freedom of Information Act because they contain "commercially sensitive information".

Irish Independent

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