Friday 24 February 2017

Pressure grows for docklands inquiry

Michael Brennan and FIACH KELLY

THE Government is facing demands for a wider inquiry into the state body responsible for regenerating Dublin's Docklands after the leaking of three damning internal reports.

This includes questions for Taoiseach Brian Cowen, who signed-off on the Dublin Docklands Development Authority's (DDDA) request to increase its borrowing so that it could take part in the disastrous purchase of the €412m Irish Glass Bottle site, which is now worth an estimated €50m.

The property in Ringsend in Dublin was bought in 2006 without any independent valuation being conducted.

Fine Gael environment spokesman Phil Hogan, who published the new reports yesterday, said the reports did not deal with crucial questions about whether collusion between "bankers, developers and politicians" had led the DDDA to make many of the planning decisions criticised in the reports.

"Perhaps (Environment) Minister John Gormley doesn't want to commission a report which might be politically unpalatable to the Government. I think it's a fundamental issue of political accountability," he said.

The reports had been delivered to Mr Gormley last month and were being checked by the Attorney General for legal issues, but Fine Gael went ahead and published leaked copies it had obtained.

Mr Hogan called on DDDA chairperson Professor Niamh Brennan (a corporate governance expert and wife of former PD leader Michael McDowell) to carry out a wider investigation into DDDA's activities since it was set up in 1997 -- and its links to Anglo Irish Bank.

Mr Hogan estimated the taxpayer could be liable for a bill of up to €500m for the derelict site, which was funded mainly with a loan from Anglo Irish Bank at a time when then Anglo chairman Sean FitzPatrick and then Anglo director Lar Bradshaw were on the board of the DDDA.

Cover-up

Mr Gormley last night declined to call directly for an inquiry into Mr Cowen's role in the acquisition of the Irish Glass Bottle site.

But he said he had commissioned a further report from consultants to see what could be done with the site.

"It's very clear that bad financial decisions have been made in the past during the Celtic Tiger era and this was one of them," he said.

Mr Gormley dismissed claims of a cover-up as ridiculous. He said he wanted to publish the reports into the DDDA's activities because he had commissioned them.

Irish Independent

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