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Tuesday 23 April 2019

Coastal error . . . NAMA expert 'all at sea' in midlands

Michael Brennan Political Correspondent

THE economist behind the controversial NAMA project previously carried out a report which raised the issue of coastal erosion in Longford -- despite the fact that it is a landlocked county.

The report, produced by Dr Peter Bacon, was commissioned in 2001 to encourage more economic development in the midlands county.

But he was embarrassed when it emerged the report contained several paragraphs on the issue of coastal erosion in the landlocked county.

Former Fianna Fail councillor Seamus Butler said he had been the person who identified the error when a draft version of the report was circulated.

"There were a couple of paragraphs referring to coastal erosion. Obviously, it was a major typo," he said.

The offending paragraphs were subsequently removed before the publication of the final report.

Mr Bacon is credited as the man who came up with the idea of the National Asset Management Agency (NAMA) after being asked to carry out a report into how to deal with the banks' toxic property loans by the Department of Finance.

The economist, who is currently on holidays, last night said he had no memory of the detail of the report or how much it had cost. But he said it had been seen as a useful contribution to the economic development of Longford.

"It even got their coastal erosion problems ordered," he joked.

Vetted

Mr Butler was president of the Longford Chamber of Commerce from 2001-2003 and was part of a group which vetted the draft version of the report.

He said he believed parts of the report had been based on one carried out for another county -- and not all of the irrelevant sections had been taken out.

"Obviously it had been done for a coastal county like Wexford and 'cut and paste' is a devil if you don't do it right. You can get yourselves in all sorts of trouble," Mr Butler told the Irish Independent. The cost of the report to Longford County Council was around €25,000-€30,000.

A substantial portion of this was contributed by an anonymous donor -- believed to be Longford-born builder Joe O'Reilly. The report was commissioned over concerns that Longford was in the economic doldrums after the loss of around 1,000 traditional textile jobs.

Mr Butler said it had been a sizeable document with a considerable amount of research which had helped to attract in multinationals like Abbot Laboratories and decentralised offices like the Irish Prison Service. "I would certainly believe it was a valuable document to have when addressing the different agencies and stakeholders in Longford's future," he said.

Longford County Council director of services Frank Sheridan said the Bacon report had been a "massive help" to the county.

"We were in the gutter and this would have been the rope that gave us the strength to get out of it. Eight years later, Longford has made tremendous strides in securing new employment. It was a good call; it was money well spent." he said

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