FF calls on John Perry to resign over 'abuse' of office
EMBATTLED junior minister John Perry came under mounting pressure to resign last night as it emerged that the value of his assets is not nearly enough to cover his crippling €2.5m debts.
An estate agent based in the north-west yesterday valued the south Sligo TD's total portfolio at €1.186m – less than half the €2.47m judgement that has been secured against Mr Perry and his wife Marie by Danske Bank.
The Ballymote-based businessman invested heavily in expanding his core business and building a property empire during the boom. But the value of his 10-piece portfolio has since plummeted.
Fianna Fail finance spokesman Michael McGrath has accused Mr Perry of abusing his position as a minister to "extricate himself from his personal financial difficulties" after reports in the Irish Independent yesterday that the minister contacted the head of State-owned AIB about his financial difficulties.
"It is clear there was cross-over between his personal and political interests in his dealings with the pillar banks. Certainly there is firm evidence he abused his position as minister," Mr McGrath told the Sunday Independent, adding: "At this stage, in my view, he has no option but to go."
Mr Perry, who also ran up personal tax arrears of €125,000, has continually refused to clarify numerous issues relating to his finances.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny has so far not wavered in his support of his Fine Gael colleague.
However, sources last night claimed Mr Kenny was forced to back Mr Perry in order to shield his chief lieutenant in the Cabinet, Health Minister James Reilly, who also found himself at the centre of damaging revelations about his personal finances last week.
"Enda's wrapping of Perry in cotton wool is his way of keeping the wolves from Dr Reilly's door," a Fine Gael ministerial source told this newspaper. This was echoed by opposition TDs.
"Minister Reilly's position is itself precarious, given that he has a €1.9m judgement against him, along with other (people)," said Mr McGrath. "He is a close confidant of the Taoiseach and deputy leader of Fine Gael, so it is clear there is a necessity to protect Reilly. It is clear the Government is concerned that if Mr Kenny was to demand Perry's head, then it would expose Reilly."
Sinn Fein's finance spokesman Pearse Doherty also called on Mr Perry to resign if he fails to answer serious questions about his dealings with bank chiefs.
He said: "I don't think this can go on much longer. Information continues to seep out which continues to damage not only the minister but also the position he holds."
The Taoiseach's spokesman last night said he still had "confidence" in Mr Perry to continue as minister.