Wednesday 22 November 2017

FF on list of creditors for Pierse, court filing shows

Maeve Sheehan

Maeve Sheehan

FIANNA Fail is owed money by the collapsed building firm Pierse Contracting, according to a report submitted to the High Court.

The political party famous for its links to developers is named among thousands of creditors of the construction firm which was put into liquidation 10 days ago.

The party was named in an examiner's report submitted to the High Court, although the amount was not specified. It gave Fianna Fail's address as Suite 2 in the Berkeley Court Hotel, the room from which the former party treasurer, Des Richardson, fundraised for the party.

Up to 3,000 traders are owed €51m by Pierse companies, which went into liquidation with debts of €212m.

Its outstanding debt to Fianna Fail was news to the party, however, which claimed to be mystified by its appearance as a Pierse creditor. A spokesman said: "Pierse Construction does not owe money to Fianna Fail."

Pierse has been a regular donor to the party in the past. The construction firm contributed €4,000 to President Mary McAleese's campaign for president and to Eoin Ryan's bid for a seat in Europe.

Pierse secured a meeting with the Taoiseach, Brian Cowen, four days before it sought the protection of the High Court to keep its creditors at bay.

Mr Cowen agreed to meet a Pierse representative during an official visit to Laois on October 8, at the request of local TD Sean Fleming. A spokesman confirmed that the meeting lasted for five minutes in county council offices.

It is understood that Pierse made representations to the Taoiseach about a contract to build new offices for the Department of Agriculture, which was cancelled by the Office of Public Works. Pierse complained that it had already spent several million euro on planning fees. The Taoiseach asked a member of staff to make an inquiry on behalf of the firm and no further action was taken, a spokesman said.

Mark Meehan, whose family drilling firm is owed almost €100,000 for work on motorway service stations, said that the company tried to reassure him that Mr Cowen was assisting Pierse.

Mr Meehan said he felt "deceived" by Pierse. He said his firm worked right up to last month, after getting repeated assurances from Pierse that it would be paid. On October 12, the company told him not to expect payment after all and claimed that during the same telephone call he was told that the Taoiseach was assisting Pierse.

"Pierse promised payment right up to several days before the news of the examinership and asked my company to carry out services until two weeks before this event," he said. "We as a company feel deceived by these actions as Pierse should have had some prior knowledge of the problems ahead."

Creditors are now questioning how the construction firm landed State contracts in the 18 months before it went into liquidation. The company faces allegations that it was trading while insolvent.

Robert Dore, a solicitor acting for several creditors who are owed €1.7m, said his clients believed they were working for Pierse on safe "blue chip" contracts. In a letter to the examiner, Mr Dore said they were now "deeply suspicious" of Pierse.

They were "induced" to "work around the clock on many projects to meet deadlines in circumstances where the company must have known of the insolvency of the company."

Sunday Independent

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