Sunday 15 September 2019

The book is open: read it and weep

The tale of Nama is not a happy one, but this vast undertaking is a work in progress, writes Ronald Quinlan

'Nama is one player, and part of the solution to this whole process. I think you have to look much wider. You have to look at the causes of the difficulties in this country. Nama was not around for the causes. Nama is the solution.'

Nama Chairman Frank Daly, Sunday Independent, March 6, 2011

THE book of Nama. Read it and weep, because if it isn't the solution Frank Daly says it is, you will pay for it in your taxes for the rest of your working life.

Today, the Sunday Independent lifts the lid on the madness that gripped Ireland's developers and bankers, a madness that our political class to its eternal shame allowed to go unchecked until it brought us to the brink of economic ruin.

All our Celtic Tiger hubris is here; from the 23 loans Chartered Land chief Joe O'Reilly took with Anglo Irish Bank to buy up 51 buildings between O'Connell Street and Moore Street, to Derek and Siobhan Quinlan's purchase of a trophy apartment at the five-star Merrion Hotel -- just two miles from their palatial home on Shrewsbury Road.

Beyond the capital city, the list of boom era baubles continues, with Gerry Gannon's 74-acre farm directly opposite the entrance to the K Club in Kildare, where both he and Ballymore chief Sean Mulryan bought up sumptuously appointed retreats in the lead in to the 2006 Ryder Cup.

Move to the Atlantic coast and to County Clare to find Bernard McNamara's luxury holiday home overlooking the historic Lahinch Golf Club. While Nama put Michael McNamara Construction into receivership last November, the Property Registration Authority (PRAI) records show how the mortgage on the 61-year-old developer's Lahinch bolthole was taken by the powerful agency seven months earlier, on April 1 last.

Of course the loan book of Nama is largely filled with details of the properties you would expect to find, from Greenfield sites on the outskirts of provincial towns, to apartment blocks, to multi-storey car parks and hotels that developers believed were primed for redevelopment before the bubble burst.

The details recorded here today represent a massive work in progress on the part of a dedicated team of officials at the PRAI, who have worked for the past three months to unravel the complex web of transactions.

With the first mortgage charge now assigned to Nama group entity -- National Asset Loan Management Ltd -- in hundreds of cases, the ball would appear to be squarely in the court of the agency's chief executive Brendan McDonagh.

Under the Nama Act 2009, he and his officials possess an awesome power that the developers' bankers never had. Nama can force the sale of any asset over which it holds the first charge as part of its efforts to make a developer borrower pay down their debt to the State.

But even where its developer clients own properties outright, Nama has it within its power to force the sale of the asset to recover monies owed.

Asked specifically if Nama can force the sale of a property asset that is mortgage-free, a spokesman for Nama said: "Yes. If it [the asset] is part of the security package acquired, but such a decision would be taken in the context of a broader assessment of that borrower's ability to repay his entire loans over a period, and preferably through an agreed business plan."

Just where and when Nama will choose to use its unprecedented powers remains to be seen. A forensic examination of the PRAI files, coupled with a careful cross checking of property sales reports however, does show the movement of some of the assets over which Nama holds the mortgage.

The 74-acre plot of farmland opposite the K Club owned by Gerry Gannon, is now at the 'deal agreed' stage according to the website of its selling agent HT Meagher O'Reilly, for instance.

The land is expected to be sold for a sum in the region of €1.5m, or approximately €20,000 per acre, with the proceeds used to pay down Mr Gannon's borrowings.

Sunday Independent

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