Sunday 17 December 2017

Agency lost the run of itself -- and hundreds of millions

Donal O'Donovan

Donal O'Donovan

• What is the Dublin Docklands Development Authority and why should I care?

The DDDA is the state agency set up back in 1997 to lead development of what used to be called the Custom House Docks, the area that became Dublin's financial district now known as the IFSC. In the rush to develop the area the state-owned DDDA was given special powers to fast-track planning applic-ations and act as a developer. It went wrong leaving taxpayers to pick up a tab running to hundreds of millions.

• I thought the IFSC was a great success story?

In many ways it is. From 1997 global finance houses were attracted into Ireland, initially with a special corporation tax rate, and the sector developed from nothing to a major employer with around 10,000 good jobs in Dublin alone.

• So what's the problem?

The DDDA lost the run of itself completely. During the boom years its state-appointed board was a who's who of the property sector. Anglo Irish Bank chief was Sean FitzPatrick was a director, so were fellow Anglo directors Lar Bradshaw and Donal O'Connor.

• So what happened?

At the height of the lunacy the DDDA became embroiled in one of the biggest, and worst, land deals in Irish history. It became a 26pc investor, alongside developers Bernard McNamara and Derek Quinlan, in a €400m deal to buy a site in Ringsend.

The deal was so big that the finance minister at the time, Brian Cowen, had to raise a cap on how much the DDDA was allowed to borrow, to get the deal to be done, and the deal was funded with huge loans from Anglo.

The site -- known as the Dublin Glass Bottle -- was sold by Ardagh Glass boss Paul Coulson. The deal was a disaster, the property crash wiped out the value of the site, the partners in the deal became insolvent and the loans transferred to NAMA.

Irish Independent

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