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Developers remain kings of their castles

An IRISH developer's home is his castle, or should that be a developer's castle is his home? The state agency set up to deal with the good and bad development loans of Ireland's broken banks is happy to leave its developer clients to reside in the luxury to which they have become accustomed off the back of the boom.

For regardless of the millions, or even the billions, that the nation's biggest and most-indebted developers owe to Nama, the newly-established asset management agency has said they can stay in their homes, no matter how palatial, so long as they co-operate and maintain them on a reduced income.

Even where personal guarantees have been given, Nama's bosses have decreed that these will not be called upon while the developers meet agreed targets for the 'work out' of their loans over the agency's expected seven- to 10-year lifespan.

As our pictures show, there's certainly plenty of incentive for those in Nama's top 10 to play ball.

Take the case of Clare-born developer Bernard McNamara and his Ailesbury Road mansion, a property which at the height of Ireland's property madness was valued at an eye-watering €26m.

Only last January, McNamara fought off tears as he ruminated aloud on the potential consequences of the €62.25m judgement that had just been awarded against him in favour of a group of wealthy investors in the former Irish Glass Bottle site in Ringsend.

"There are people who say 'You live in a fancy house'. I'm willing to get out of my house, or whatever it takes," he said in an interview in the immediate aftermath of the judgement by Mr Justice Peter Kelly.

Ten months later, however, neither that judgement nor the transfer of McNamara's €1.5bn in borrowings on to the books of Nama have seen the Clare man move from his 10,000 square foot mansion.

Not that he's the only one still sitting in the lap of luxury as the country slides down the tubes.

Cork-based Michael O'Flynn is another developer whose loans have been taken into Nama, even though they are performing, and who appears to be living in the manner to which most of us will never be accustomed.

As our picture of Mr O'Flynn's home in Kilcrea shows, the outspoken developer is sitting very prettily indeed despite the transfer demanded by legislation of upwards of €1bn of the O'Flynn group's loans into Nama.

Back in the leafy south Dublin suburb of Foxrock, another of Nama's top 10 -- Castlethorn and Chartered Land chief Joe O'Reilly appears to be enjoying the fruits of his boom-time development ventures, behind the high walls of his family's home on the exclusive Kerrymount Avenue. And while O'Reilly -- who is perhaps best known for developing the hugely successful Dundrum Shopping Centre -- transferred the ownership of his family home in to his wife's name in March of last year according to the Registry of Deeds, it would now appear that move was overly cautious, given Nama's willingness to work with the borrowers on its books.

The chances of Joe O'Reilly -- or his wife -- having to hand over the keys to their family home would appear to be slim at best, given the fact that the majority of the media-averse tycoon's assets are already fully developed and generating cash from commercial and retail tenants.

Down in Kildare, meanwhile, Ballymore Properties boss Sean Mulryan is far from the madding crowd behind the high walls of his majestic home, the Ardenode Stud.

With his development group's business plans having been recently approved by Nama, the Roscommon-born builder can sleep easily in the knowledge that he won't have to downsize to more modest accommodation any time soon.

Elsewhere in the Nama top 10 list, Derek Quinlan is something of an exception when it comes to the matter of his family home.

While other Nama names have remained firmly in situ, the former Revenue Commissioners official turned property speculator has put his Shrewsbury Road mansion on the market at the relative knockdown price of €7.5m.

With Mr Quinlan firmly ensconced in his new home on the outskirts of the Swiss city of Lausanne, any proceeds from the sale of his Dublin residence can be used to pay down his debts, which amount to some €600m personally.

Asked by the Sunday Independent for specific comment on the matter of the family homes of its developer clients, a spokesman for Nama said: "So long as the borrower can maintain their principal private residence within the means of their reduced incomes and are co-operating with Nama and repaying their loans, Nama will not pursue the family home.

"Where there are a number of residences, the borrower will be expected to dispose of these as part of an asset reduction programme within the business plan agreed with Nama."

Sunday Independent