Saturday 15 December 2018

Agency will manage loans without legislation

Fionnan Sheahan

Fionnan Sheahan

THE Government is planning to set up the new agency to manage up to €90bn worth of bank loans on a temporary level without any laws backing it up.

But Tanaiste Mary Coughlan contradicted Taoiseach Brian Cowen on the timetable for the passing of the legislation to establish the National Asset Management Agency.

Mr Cowen indicated the legislation will be set up on interim basis until the autumn, when the legislation will be passed but Ms Coughlan said NAMA was a priority and would hopefully be passed before the summer break.

"The heads of the legislation are being worked on at present. Given the fact we hope to have this legislation passed during this session, if at all possible, and preparation for the legislation is under way, the Government has decided to consider the possibility of the establishment of an interim board to prepare the scope of the preparatory work that needs to be done.

"Naturally the constitution for the appointment of chairperson and CEO will be contained within the framework of the legislation," she said.

Fine Gael deputy leader Richard Bruton said the law to establish NAMA is "possibly the most important legislation the House will ever pass". "The scale of the commitment we are entering into on behalf of the taxpayer is unprecedented.

"I would like to clarify on what legal authority that interim board will be acting. Will it make decisions that compromise the position of the Dail?" he said.

"If it makes decision about, for example, the price at which assets might be purchased, we will be undermining the freedom of the Dail to strike a fair balance. These are important issues," he added.

Describing NAMA as "An Bord Bailout", Labour Party leader Eamon Gilmore said the delay in passing the legislation means NAMA will be able to acquire and value property "with all of the consequences that this will have for the State finances without authority from Dail Eireann".

"The Tanaiste has told the House this morning, in contradiction to what the Taoiseach said yesterday, that the legislation will be presented this session. I want a straight answer.

"Will this Bill be brought before the House this session or in the autumn as indicated by the Taoiseach yesterday?" he said.

Labour's Joan Burton referred to an article by the Finance Minister Brian Lenihan in the Irish Independent yesterday.

"It is excellent that he is prepared to communicate with us through the newspapers. The article states that the agency will acquire loans at an appropriate discount from their face value," she said.

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