Tuesday 12 November 2019

Property experts to face Banking Inquiry

Banking Inquiry chairman Ciaran Lynch
Banking Inquiry chairman Ciaran Lynch

Peter Flanagan

The Banking Inquiry is to hear from two of the top figures in the commercial property world next week, as the committee looks at the sector in the run up to the crash.

CBRE executive director Marie Hunt and JLL managing director John Moran are believed to have been asked to give testimony in relation to the state of the market and what role, if any, the commercial property market played in the Celtic Tiger years.

They are due to appear before the committee, headed by Labour TD Ciaran Lynch, next Thursday.

Among the topics likely to come up for discussion is how properties were advertised for sale and what discussions were had around the financing behind property deals in general. Their appearances will come a week after national newspaper editors appeared before the inquiry.

Last week former editor of the Irish Independent Gerry O'Regan told the Banking Inquiry the Irish media had missed the "Watergate" story of the banking crisis but it was not for the want of trying,

The state of the banking sector was "hidden from the view of everybody" at the time.

Unlike Watergate "we didn't get a Nixon", he added.

It was perhaps the great untold story - but the problem was that the Central Bank, IMF and Regulator and various other influential people were saying matters were okay.

Mr O'Regan, who was editor of the Irish Independent from 2005-2012, said in all his time editing the paper he had been given a free hand and never came under any pressure whatsoever to take a particular line politically or commercially.

There was no hidden agenda at the Irish Independent to try and artificially bolster the property boom, Mr O'Regan said.

Asked by Fianna Fáil Deputy Michael McGrath if there had been an "unhealthy dependence" on property advertising at the time, Independent News & Media company secretary Michael Doorly said he did not believe that.

Ed Mulhall, former RTÉ Head of News and Current Affairs said RTE had performed its public service well but "could we have done better? Of course we could".

Former 'Irish Times' editor Geraldine Kennedy said journalists were less well-placed than others to make an accurate assessment in the run-up to the property bust.

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