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Tuesday 12 November 2019

Docklands body denies claims it gave U2 a 'secret' €450k deal on site


Ed Carty and Niall O'Connor

The under-fire Dublin Docklands Development Authority (DDDA) has denied suggestions U2 got a "secret deal" as part of the band's purchase of a prime site at Dublin's Hanover Quay.

The Dáil's spending watchdog yesterday heard that the State body paid €5.1m for two properties on the docklands in 2004 - before signing off on a €450,000 deal for one of the warehouses in 2013.

Members of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) were told the unit was not put on the open market and instead the sale had been agreed with the band in "exceptional circumstances".

The DDDA's financial consultant John Crawley claimed it was a fair market price based on two independent valuations.

"I'm not sure it's right to categorise it as a deal that was done behind the scenes," the adviser said.

"We still looked into our hearts and are comfortable that the right process had been followed, the right due diligence had been done and the right sale price had been achieved."

The DDDA, which is being wound up after a catalogue of doomed property investments including the Irish Glass Bottle site, originally bought 12 and 16 Hanover Quay from businessman and developer Harry Crosbie in 2004 under compulsory purchase orders.

The plan was to also buy the U2-owned Unit 18, to build a boardwalk along the quay and ultimately for the 32-storey U2 Tower over the Liffey to be built, with the band rehoused in studios on the top two floors.

The band have been recording in the docks area of Dublin since the mid-90s.

The PAC was told the sale of Unit 16 to U2 was the only time the DDDA sold a site or property using the "exceptional circumstances" rule of not going to the open market since plans to wind up the authority were announced in May 2012.

It was signed off by then board chairman John Tierney, former Dublin City manager and now head of Irish Water.

Labour TD Joe Costello claimed the real asset was the site on Hanover Quay and not the old warehouse building being used by the band and that ultimately it could be worth close to €5m.

"It's very hard to agree with you, on the basis that it's not the property, it's the development and location of the site," Mr Costello said.

"It seems to me that's the type of deal we were very critical of the DDDA for conducting over the years," he added.

The DDDA said it secured the sale of Unit 16 to the price of €144 a square foot - €450,000 in total - after comparing it to a nearby site on the open market valued at €99 a square foot.

The sale to U2 was agreed in October 2013 after independent valuations from Lambert Smith Hampton for the DDDA and separate valuations from an agent acting for the band but not signed off until January this year.

Irish Independent

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