Thursday 21 September 2017

Kenny backs under-fire Perry as opposition crank up pressure over €2.5m debt

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John Perry at an EU Competitiveness Council meeting in Vilnius, Lithuania yesterday
John Perry at an EU Competitiveness Council meeting in Vilnius, Lithuania yesterday

Fionnan Sheahan Political Editor

TAOISEACH Enda Kenny has full confidence in Small Business Minister John Perry, a government spokesman said last night.

Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore and the Labour Party are also standing by the beleaguered junior minister, who has six weeks to find a means of paying almost €2.5m in debts.

But the opposition parties are cranking up the pressure on Mr Perry, pointing to his interaction with banks as Small Business Minister.

Fianna Fail said Mr Perry has to clarify if he has a conflict of interest.

The Green Party is calling for him to stand down as a junior minister until his financial affairs are resolved.

Mr Kenny's spokesman said the Taoiseach has confidence in the minister and there is a case before the courts.

"The Taoiseach hasn't said to me that he has spoken to John, but that doesn't mean he hasn't," a spokesman said.

Mr Gilmore's spokesman said the Tanaiste had every sympathy for Mr Perry.

"He's in a position that far too many have found themselves in," the spokesman said.

The Taoiseach's spokesman did not accept accusations that Mr Perry had a conflict of interest.

"Lots of people in various pursuits find themselves in financial difficulty."

Labour is not going to push for Mr Perry's resignation but the judgment does place significant political pressure on the minister.

Mr Gilmore said Mr Perry needs time to work through his financial problems.

Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney said he was confident Mr Perry would be able to remain in his job despite the ruling. But Fianna Fail finance spokesman Michael McGrath called on Mr Perry to clarify if he used his position as minister as leverage when dealing with AIB and Bank of Ireland in terms of his personal financial difficulties.

Mr McGrath said that Mr Perry said in April "he would be meeting with AIB and that he knew (Bank of Ireland chief executive) Richie Boucher".

"There is certainly a concern there in relation to the crossover of his personal banking difficulties and his interaction with the banks as Minister for State," he said.

Mr Perry and his wife Marie consented this week to a judgment of €2.47m against them at the Commercial Court over unpaid loans.

Danske Bank issued the loans in October 2011, to be repaid by by November 2012, to restructure existing loans and an overdraft account and provide €25,000 towards tax affairs.

The loans were secured by first legal mortgages over properties including Perry's Hardware store and the Stone Park restaurant at Main Street, Ballymote, Co Sligo.

The judge granted the couple a stay to September 2 on the order.

Irish Independent

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