Sunday 25 February 2018

Banking inquiry Committee agrees to redact Johnny Ronan's controversial 'Arbeit Macht Frei' statement

Developer Johnny Ronan
Developer Johnny Ronan

Daniel McConnell and Niall O'Connor

The €5m Oireachtas Banking Inquiry has today agreed to redact the controversial written statement it received from developer Johnny Ronan.

At the weekend, Mr Ronan publicly apologised for any offence caused by his use of a phrase, widely associated with Nazi concentration camps.

The Committee has since received a formal request from Mr Ronan to remove the final phrase from his witness statement as published.

"The Committee normally rejects applications to amend statements once they have been submitted. However, in this case, the phrase at issue contains no evidential value and has the potential to continue to cause offence. In these exceptional circumstances the Joint Committee has agreed to the redaction of the last line of Mr Ronan’s witness statement," a spokesman for the committee said.

The businessman sparked outrage when he signed off his banking inquiry witness statement with 'Arbeit macht frei', which translates as 'work will set you free' - the statement was emblazoned by the Nazis on the front gates of Auschwitz and other death camps,

Former minister Alan Shatter led numerous calls for Mr Ronan to apologise and to explain his decision to include the words in his statement.

In his statement, Mr Ronan said: "I apologise for any offence which has been caused by quoting the phrase 'Arbeit macht frei' (work will set you free) at the end of my submission to the Oireachtas Banking

Inquiry. It was genuinely unintended. The reason for the quote I believed (perhaps mistakenly) was evident from the context of my submission - Nama promised its borrowers that they would be treated fairly if they co-operated, but that unfortunately was not the case; co-operating businesses, including Battersea Power Station, Treasury Holdings and our China business (Forterra Trust) were destroyed, with all the consequences of that for Irish jobs and the taxpayer.

"The significance of this and continuing anger I feel over what occurred is not however comparable with the horrors perpetrated by the Nazi regime. I recognise that I used an inappropriate analogy in my submission and have written to the Banking Inquiry to request the offending phrase be removed."

Mr Shatter welcomed Mr Ronan's apology.

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