Thursday 14 November 2019

Financial problems destroying Business Minister's credibility

Michael Brennan

THE average businessperson has to plead with their local bank manager for loans. The complaint since the recession began is that most requests are referred to head office.

But it appears that junior minister John Perry, who owes almost €2.5m to Danske Bank, has been able to go straight to the top.

Court documents have recorded him saying he had met AIB chief executive David Duffy about his financial situation, and that he also knew Bank of Ireland chief executive Richie Boucher.

He has been using his title, Minister for Small Business, in his correspondence with National Irish Bank – later Danske Bank – which was trying to get him to repay the €2.47m loan.

It has raised serious questions about whether Mr Perry has been using his political position to help extract himself from a very serious financial situation.

It is no surprise that he might seek to refinance his Danske Bank loan with AIB and Bank of Ireland, which are still the two biggest banks in the country.

But why was he discussing his financial situation with the boss of AIB, rather than applying for a loan through the normal channels? Telling Danske Bank that he knew Bank of Ireland chief executive Richie Boucher also seems extremely inadvisable.

He has access to senior bankers through his role as chairman of the Government's Advisory Group for Small Businesses. That was his brainchild, and he was praised for it by the Taoiseach. He even ran a bank credit roadshow at seven locations around the country, with Finance Minister Michael Noonan turning up for the meeting in Limerick.

To a large extent, Mr Perry has had to lead a double life in the past two years. In public, he has been an advocate of banks giving more credit for small businesses. At the same time, he was privately grappling with the demands from Danske Bank.

Mr Perry has few political enemies due to his inoffensive style. He has worked hard in his role, despite the enormous pressures on him.

But even if he manages to repay the money he owes, his actions have fatally damaged his ability to help get bank credit for the country's small businesses and the 650,000 people they employ.

A man in danger of drowning financially cannot credibly call on the banks to throw a liferaft to others.

Irish Independent

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