Taoiseach 'took best advice' in move on site
TAOISEACH Brian Cowen yesterday robustly defended his handling of the Dublin Docklands Development Authority (DDDA) request to borrow funds to purchase the controversial Irish Glass Bottle site.
He said he acted on the recommendation of two government departments when he was Finance Minister and he did not extend borrowing limits.
Fine Gael environment spokesman Phil Hogan claimed yesterday that Mr Cowen had taken just 14 working days to consider his decision to allow the DDDA borrow up to €127m in connection with the deal.
Under the 1997 Dublin Docklands Act, ministerial approval was needed for borrowings up to that level.
The decision was made on the advice of Department of Finance officials, but not before some questions were raised within the department over the DDDA's ability to repay the loan.
Mr Cowen's decision effectively gave the green light to the DDDA's involvement in a joint venture with businessmen Bernard McNamara and Derek Quinlan in purchasing the site for €426.8m in 2006.
The DDDA invested €109m in the deal, but has written the value of that investment down to nil following the collapse of the property market.
Mr Hogan said the debacle could end up costing taxpayers €500m and that Mr Cowen would have to take his share of the blame.
"What we are observing here is state-sponsored property speculation, promoted and driven by the DDDA, financed by Anglo Irish Bank and endorsed and supported by the then Minister for Finance, Brian Cowen," said Mr Hogan.
"This goes right to the heart of governance and decision making that has brought our country to its knees," he said.
However, Mr Cowen defended his position last night, stating he had followed the advice of Department of Finance and Department of Environment officials in making his decision.
"The decision was in line with recommendations from both departments," he said.
"It was an order to authorise them to continue to borrow up to existing limits. I didn't extend any new limits. I had no other involvement other than that, where the consent of the Minister for Finance is required for that particular, for that to happen," he said.
Mr Cowen was adamant he had no role in sanctioning the purchase of the Irish Glass and Bottle site. "I wasn't involved in making decisions on what sites to buy and what they don't buy. They entered into a joint venture. That's the method that was used.