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Maeve Dineen: Taxpayers' bitter pill of €200,000 salaries for NAMA developers

JUST like bumper bankers' pensions and pay, €200,000 salaries to NAMA developers is always going to create controversy. Some will say these are the very people who brought this country to its knees, so why are we paying them for cleaning up their own mess?

Michael O'Flynn, Sean Mulryan and Joe O'Reilly have emerged as the three NAMA developers getting an annual salary of €200,000 each from the agency, the Irish Independent has learned.

Finance Minister Michael Noonan confirmed last week that three of the 168 developers will be allowed to retain €200,000 each in salaries from cash-producing assets in 2012.

A further 25 will retain salaries of between €150,000 and €190,000, while 38 developers will earn between €100,000 and €149,000 this year.

Seventy-three will receive incomes of between €50,000 and €99,000, with 29 receiving payments up to €49,000.

The largest developer in the State, Mr Mulryan certainly has scale. His entire empire is ultimately owned by a company called Ballymore Ireland Group Limited, based in the Isle of Man.

One of its companies, Ballymore Properties Ireland, incorporated in Dublin, does publish accounts, however, and these shine a light on the main parent. They show that Ballymore has been able to roll over huge debts with the banks, but has taken writedowns on land, bank and property assets.

Apart from his Irish assets, Mr Mulryan's portfolio is mainly centred in the UK, including the London Docklands, and the Czech Republic.

Meanwhile, publicity-shy Joe O'Reilly is something of a mystery, with some of his assets losing extraordinary value in the last few years, while others are eyed up jealously by other developers. His two main companies, Castlethorn and Chartered Land, are huge in scale and backed extensively by several Irish banks, chief among them the former Anglo Irish.

The problem for Chartered Land is its exposure to the retail sector. The company owns the Ilac Centre in Dublin city and the Pavilions in Swords.

Mr O'Reilly's other company, Castlethorn Construction, is the developer of the Dundrum Town Centre.

The firm of Cork developer Michael O'Flynn, best known for the Elysian Tower and Lapps Quay in Cork, has been one of the few development companies to attract private-equity finance over the last few years.

NAMA, which refused to comment on the top three salaries yesterday, has always stressed that the developers are not paid salaries by NAMA, as it is not their employer. Instead, it said, the agency, in certain cases, permits debtors to retain part of the income from their income-producing assets to pay overheads where necessary for the preservation and enhancement of the value of property securing its loans.

It argues that paying developers is a commercial decision to retain the best-placed people to recover the value of the loan for the State. That may be true, but it's still a bitter pill to swallow.

Irish Independent