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Sunday 28 May 2017

Site sale used to plug €73m hole in port fund

Sam Smyth

PROFITS from the controversial sale of the infamous Irish Glass Bottle site were used to plug a €73m hole in the Dublin Port Company (DPC) pension fund.

The Irish Independent has learned that the DPC's pension fund was in crisis when it cleared €109m profit from the sale of the site in Ringsend for €412m -- with professional fees bringing the total cost to €426m.

The DPC's pension windfall and bailout of its pension fund emerged last night as other details of the Dublin Dockland Development Authority (DDDA) purchase of the site were revealed.

Last night, the Labour Party's justice spokesman Pat Rabbitte called for an explanation of how much of the profit from the sale went to the pension scheme.

The former chairman of the DPC, Joe Burke, confirmed that restoring the company's pension scheme was his priority at the time of the sale in 2006. "Yes, it (the sale of the Glass Bottle site) replenished our pension fund," said Mr Burke who stood down as chairman of the DPC last year.

Mr Burke was closely associated with former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern who was leading the Government at the time of the €412m purchase.

"We had a plan in place to replace the money (€72.7m) and we also made €30m that year by selling a site to Dublin Corporation for the Port Tunnel," said Mr Burke. He denied that Mr Ahern had anything to do with the sale of the Irish Glass Bottle site or in restoring the DPC's crisis-hit pension fund.

The DPC's annual company report in 2005 shows that the pension fund was short by €72.7m but a year later it declared a once-off profit of €109m from the sale of the Irish Glass Bottle site.

The company said it used the money to top up its pension fund, to pay off borrowings and to support its capital investment plans.

Solicitors

Solicitors A&L Goodbody advised the DDDA as well as developers Bernard McNamara and Derek Quinlan's private clients -- its partners in the site purchase.

"Even with the most robust Chinese walls it must have been difficult to reconcile the interest of the two commercial companies and the publicly owned body," said the source.

It has emerged that the DDDA may have to pick up the bill for interest charges on loans borrowed for the Ringsend property.

It also emerged yesterday that Taoiseach Brian Cowen took just 14 days to give the go-ahead to the DDDA to increase its borrowings to €127m for the site.

Mr Cowen, who was Finance Minister at the time, allowed the DDDA to join a consortium headed by developer Bernard McNamara to buy the site for €412m. The DDDA invested €47m to buy a 26pc stake in the project.

Irish Independent

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