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Unlikely choice to head DDDA still facing an enormous task

THE appointment of Professor Niamh Brennan as chairman of the Dublin Docklands Development Authority (DDDA) by Environment Minister John Gormley was somewhat surprising when it was made in March of last year.

Despite Prof Brennan's credentials as one of the country's foremost experts on corporate governance, she just happens to be the wife of former TD Michael McDowell -- Mr Gormley's most bitter political enemy.

Few will forget the infamous "Rumble in Ranelagh" during the last general election campaign when Mr Gormley and Mr McDowell squared up to each other.

But insiders say there is a huge level of trust between Mr Gormley and Prof Brennan, who has been tasked with cleaning up the authority.

The UCD professor took on the role after businessman Gerry McCaughey resigned following revelations about his use of a tax loophole after the sale of his company Century Homes.

The DDDA was in a crisis situation by the time Prof Brennan came on board, mired in debt and legal wrangles over planning and other issues.

But it is not yet clear whether the body can overcome the severe reputational damage it has suffered from its association with Anglo Irish Bank, and the financial damage done by the ill-advised Irish Glass Bottle site deal.

The then-chief executive of the authority, Paul Maloney, retired soon after Ms Brennan took charge.

The impact of cost-cutting changes will be reflected in a financial report due to be filed next month, which is expected to show progress in reducing the authority's operational losses.

Prof Brennan has also been overseeing the implementation of recommendations from corporate governance reports she commissioned on planning and finance at the authority.

The reports she commissioned have done much to unmask the malaise which affected the authority.

They revealed a loose culture of financial control, with value for money considerations largely absent.

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