| 18.4°C Dublin

Bertie Ahern joins property players in China talks


MEETING: Ex-Taoiseach Bertie Ahern with the Anhui province governor during his visit to
China as Ballymore chief Sean Mulryan looks on

MEETING: Ex-Taoiseach Bertie Ahern with the Anhui province governor during his visit to China as Ballymore chief Sean Mulryan looks on

MEETING: Ex-Taoiseach Bertie Ahern with the Anhui province governor during his visit to China as Ballymore chief Sean Mulryan looks on

BERTIE Ahern, two key lieutenants from the 'Drumcondra Mafia', a Nama top-10 developer and a potential multimillion euro property development.

Everybody knows it couldn't happen here now that the bubble has burst.

Over in China, however, it would appear to be a different story, judging by the reception the former Taoiseach got when he went there recently at the invitation of the Ireland China Co-operation Council (ICCC), an intriguing group of Irish businessmen which just happens to include his former Dublin Central sidekick Cyprian Brady among its membership.

The little-known ICCC has been blazing a trail in the Chinese province of Anhui, where it has been to the fore in proposals for a new European industrial development zone in Jiangbei.

Helping to progress those efforts, and in no small part it seems, is another key member of the 'Drumcondra Mafia', Des Richardson, the man who famously managed to clear Fianna Fail's debt through the fundraising operation he ran from a suite in the former Berkeley Court Hotel

Also poised to play a key role in the transformation of Jiangbei is one of Nama's biggest developer clients, Ballymore Properties chief, Sean Mulryan.

As our pictures show, Messrs Richardson and Mulryan have already been involved together in face-to-face meetings with Chinese officials in relation to the potential development of the Jiangbei industrial zone.

Curiously, when asked what role Mr Richardson was playing in these negotiations, a spokesman for Ballymore responded in an email, saying simply: "Nothing from our end -- didn't know he had anything to do with it."

Asked how the Ballymore Group had come to be involved in the potential development of Jiangbei, the spokesman said: "The governor of Anhui province in China was so impressed with our regeneration work in London that he asked Ballymore to advise on how they could build this new city from scratch."

The spokesman gave no response when asked if the ICCC had introduced the governor of Anhui to Ballymore. He insisted, however, that were it to be retained on the Jiangbei project, Ballymore would not be investing its own capital.

Asked last Friday about the group and his involvement in it, former TD Cyprian Brady said: "I'm no longer involved in politics. I'm a private person and I have no comment to make. Have you not got anything more interesting to be writing about?"

The former Fianna Fail TD's reluctance to comment on the ICCC could be explained by the sensitivities surrounding its negotiations in China. Enterprise Ireland has never heard of the group while the Department of Foreign Affairs said it had never been approached by the group.

Asked by the Sunday Independent what involvement it had with the ICCC, a spokeswoman for Enterprise Ireland said: "We're not involved."

Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for the Department of Foreign Affairs said: "There are a number of organisations that work to further relations between Ireland and China. The ICCC has not approached the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade with regard to its work."

In China, local media reporting of the delegation, headed up by former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern last April, states that it was established in 2009 with the aim of "promoting understanding and partnership" between the two countries. During his visit, Mr Ahern is reported as having met with the vice-governors of the Anhui province, Zhan Xialai and Hua Jianhui, as well as local Communist Party chief Zhang Baoshun.

In the course of an address to that meeting, Mr Zhang said the Anhui province was willing to deepen co-operation with Ireland in a bid to achieve mutual benefits.

Mr Ahern, for his part, is reported as having said that the ICCC would strive to promote exchanges and co-operation between Ireland and Anhui province.

Sunday Independent