Wednesday 22 November 2017

Nama complaint to RTE about 'biased' radio presenter

CRITICAL: Michelle Mulherin
CRITICAL: Michelle Mulherin
Daniel McConnell

Daniel McConnell

The State's bad bank, Nama complained to RTE about alleged "biased" treatment by one of its presenters, the Sunday Independent can reveal.

A Nama 'Communications Strategy Review' document discusses the agency's approach to "robustly engage" with the media.

In the document, prepared for a meeting of the Nama board earlier this year, the agency accuses State broadcaster RTE of "repeatedly biased treatment" on the part of one of its presenters.

The document states that the agency's approach to "robustly engage" with the media on emerging issues of potential controversy is appropriate.

"Examples of the effectiveness of this strategy in the past year include engagement with RTE in respect of repeatedly biased treatment of Nama by one of their radio presenters," the review memo states.

It boasts progress achieved by the agency in taking one newspaper to the Press Ombudsman after it accused Nama of "causing the death of a debtor".

Namaa is also concerned that developers it has dealt with could use the General Election to "vent" criticisms.

The agency's strategy in dealing with the media reveal there is a fear that unhappy developers might use the election to lambast it. "It would be of no surprise if certain debtors or former debtors availed of the opportunity of the election campaign to give vent to their views on Nama," a memoorandum to the Nama board states.

The document also says that there has been a significant fall-off in the level of debtor-driven criticism of the agency, but that it must be prepared for such criticism during the election campaign.

A number of property developers, including John Flynn, have been scathing in their criticism of Nama, comparing the state agency to North Korea and describing it as a "cancer" on the Irish economy.

Several TDs and senators, including Fine Gael's Michelle Mulherin and Labour's Lorraine Higgins, have led the charge of criticism against the agency, with Higgins accusing Nama of trying to silence her.

The document also reveals that the agency has deliberately announced major loan sell-offs on a "selective, targeted basis" in order to bolster its image. "In particular, Nama's approach is to announce major strategic initiatives and substantial transactions to the media on a selective, targeted basis. Positioning announcements around key milestones has been an effective method of achieving appropriate media coverage for Nama and this approach will continue," the document states.

Despite considerable criticism of Nama's "secretive" approach, the communications documents for the Nama board insist the agency ensures "that the media has access to as much information on Nama as is possible to enable it to comment in an informed manner".

Previously, Durkan Group, the hugely successful UK-focused construction group founded by Bill Durkan, slammed Nama after "unsatisfactory" dealings with the €80bn state bad bank.

The first major developer known to do so, Durkan decided to pay off €43m in Nama bank loans rather than continue to deal with the lumbering state agency. Durkan hammered Nama as being unreasonable and leaving the successful construction company in "an invidious and unfortunate position".

The process of dealing with the state agency was lambasted as "cumbersome, costly and time-consuming". Nama is due to be wound-up by 2020, but Finance Minister Michael Noonan has said this could happen sooner than that. On its establishment, Nama paid €31bn for toxic loans previously valued at €72bn by the bailed-out banks.

Sunday Independent

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