Enda cosies up to developers: it's great we're all together
HE came to power in 2011 fuelled by righteous indignation against all things Fianna Fail and all the things that Fianna Fail had done to the country as a consequence of its 'cosy' relationship with bankers and developers.
Just three years on, however, and it would appear that Taoiseach Enda Kenny has changed his view dramatically to those whose industries he condemned with empty rhetoric prior to his election.
"I think it's great that we can all be here together under the one roof."
That's what Mr Kenny had to say by way of introduction when he stood up at the top table in the exclusive Stephen's Green Hibernian Club at a private function for the property industry on the evening of February 4 last organised by Mark FitzGerald, chief executive of DTZ Sherry FitzGerald and son of the late Fine Gael Taoiseach, Garret.
Among the heavy hitters seated around the room were Nama chairman Frank Daly, Bank of Ireland CEO Richie Boucher, and AIB CEO David Duffy, as well as several of Nama's biggest developer clients, including Joe O'Reilly, Michael Cotter and Michael O'Flynn.
Also in the Taoiseach's 100-strong audience were numerous executives drawn from US real estate investment giants Blackstone, Lone Star and Apollo – all three of which have been busy bidding to acquire billions of euro in both distressed and performing property assets and loan portfolios from Nama and the IBRC at heavily discounted prices.
While noting the importance of a properly functioning property sector to the economy in his address, Mr Kenny added how nobody wanted to go back to the bad old days where the "creation of a boom-bust property market has left hundreds of thousands of families in negative equity, the consequences of which will be with us for many years to come".
Commenting on the Taoiseach's speech, one wag who attended the function noted wryly: "I'm not sure if Enda fully appreciated he was speaking to a room where a lot of people had ended up making more money from the bust than the boom.
"There were guys there from vulture funds applauding him, for God's sake."
Notable by their absence from the affair were any representatives from the ministerial ranks of Fine Gael's junior coalition partner, the Labour Party.
While one of the attendees at the function described its purpose as being "an opportunity for property industry figures to meet and discuss the future direction of the sector and the importance of its contribution to the economy," a senior Labour Party source expressed concern at what he termed the "optics" of the Taoiseach's attendance at it.
"The Government is currently working on its construction strategy. There is a view in Labour that Fine Gael just want to refloat the industry to the way it was before.
"Gatherings like this simply reinforce that view," the source said.
Asked last night if any invitation had been extended to Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore or any of his ministers, a spokesman for the Tanaiste declined to make any comment.
A spokesman for the Taoiseach, meanwhile, sought to downplay any significance that might be attached to his attendance, saying his speech was published on the Government's website, Merrionstreet.ie, on the same day he delivered it.
Commenting on Mr Kenny's attendance at the private Stephen's Green Club affair, the spokesman said: "The Taoiseach spoke at an event to an audience of 100 people on the need for high standards in construction and the need for the reshaping and remodelling of Ireland's construction sector."