Sunday 22 April 2018

CIF never gave gifts to politicians, inquiry told

Liam Kelleher and Tom Parlon at Leinster House yesterday. Photo: Tom Burke
Liam Kelleher and Tom Parlon at Leinster House yesterday. Photo: Tom Burke

Clodagh Sheehy

Match tickets and bottles of wine were never given by the Construction Industry Federation (CIF) and the organisation never made donations to political parties, the Banking Inquiry has been told.

Former CIF boss Liam Kelleher said he did not believe financial donations to parties influenced decisions. Any Government policies that were helpful to builders came about because of pre-budget submissions.

Fine Gael TD Eoghan Murphy asked had members of the CIF ever given "corporate hospitality, tickets to a match, a bottle of wine, that kind of thing", to which Mr Kelleher replied: "Not in my time."

Asked by Labour Senator Susan O'Keeffe about "closeness" between CIF members and Fianna Fáil, Mr Kelleher replied that he could only speak for the federation and not individual members.

The federation treated all political parties equally, he said.

CIF director general Tom Parlon said the country had become over-dependent on construction in the run-up to the crisis and "as leaders of the industry we have to accept responsibility".

They were being told by all the experts there would be a "soft landing" and "time has shown that approach was wrong".

Mr Kelleher said they had made mistakes, adding: "I was part of it and to that extent I apologise."

Too many houses were built and too much of the economy was dependent on the sector, he said.

Regarding Nama, Mr Parlon said the industry had "massive concerns" when it was being set up, but now believed that Nama was "doing a good job on handling a very difficult role".

It had not become a bailout for developers. Nama was very tough but fair, he said.

Mr Parlon said his group did not realise banks were issuing loans with poor due diligence prior to the crisis and they were "shocked" by the extent of non-performing loans when Nama was set up.

Mr Kelleher explained to Deputy Murphy that, in the run-up to the peak of the housing boom, as head of the CIF he had felt "pressure" right across the board, from all political parties, to increase construction.

The belief was that the industry was trying to catch up on deficits that had arisen over many years and all the indications looked good.

Pat Davitt, chief executive of the Institute of Professional Auctioneers and Valuers, was asked by Sinn Féin TD Pearse Doherty whether valuation standards prior to the crash were "robust".

Mr Davitt said there were no national standards, even now, and that was a weakness in the process.

He said however that the methods to calculate values had not changed and always depended on comparable prices on the open market.

He called for the establishment of an advisory National Property Council to avoid future troughs and peaks and said the Property Price Register had been "a great help" as prior to that auctioneers could not disclose a price even if they wanted to.

Irish Independent

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