Monday 24 June 2019

Shane Ross: It's an easy life for Frank and his dear family

The Nama chief has adjusted himself with alarming grace to the elite ranks of business, writes Shane Ross

Enter Frank Daly, the family man. On Friday morning Nama chief Frank Daly proudly introduced us to his new family. In his interview with RTE's Morning Ireland he referred to Nama's membership of the "NTMA (National Treasury Management Agency's) family".

Frank was, maybe, a little too euphoric after his warm reception at the Dublin Chamber of Commerce dinner on Thursday night. If the NTMA is Nama's parent, Frank should head for the nearest orphanage.

Frank has not 'gone native' since he joined Nama. He is a born native. But he has taken to the culture of the inside business track with an alarming zeal since he retired as our top taxman. First stop, he took the chair at Anglo. His performance there so pleased the insiders that he was offered the top job at Nama. Now Frank has been embraced into the dreaded 'NTMA family'.

Frank's happy family is not quite what it seems to be. It has escaped scrutiny for its role during the banking collapse and our economic armageddon. It is the insider's new refuge.

Perhaps Frank should look at the powerful "advisory committee" -- the guys who head up his NTMA "family". Did he know that it is chaired by Bertie Ahern's former Attorney General David Byrne at a fee of €50,000 a year? Mr Byrne was appointed when Bertie was Taoiseach. Did Frank know that Mr Byrne only attended three board meetings in 2010? That makes seventeen grand a board meeting.

Did he know that another member of the advisory committee is none other than Hugh Cooney, who just happened to be a donor to Brian Cowen's campaign, coincidentally appointed by Cowen when he was Minister for Finance?

Poor Hugh only receives twenty five grand a year. Rather unfair, as he attended all four meetings, more than the chairman who earns double the money. Plenty of room for a family row.

Another member of Frank's happy family -- until last month -- was the controversial, but now departed, civil servant Kevin Cardiff.

Nama's brothers and sisters in the NTMA refuge include mini-quangos like the National Development Finance Agency, the National Pensions Reserve Fund, the State Claims Agency and New Era. Frank's family is an empire of insiders. Each NTMA family member has its own board, most with political nominees, including of course, Frank's very own Nama.

So it is entirely appropriate that Frank should be the star speaker at such an august gathering as the Dublin Chamber of Commerce's dinner last Thursday. His audience was packed with overpaid solicitors, bankers, NTMA posers, estate agents and accountants.

They cheered his words. Why not? Since Frank joined the NTMA family he is looking after most of them very well indeed. Nama's largesse is keeping bread on the table of plutocrats.

A few weeks ago I stood and stared in wonder at the reception area of a leading Dublin solicitor's firm. It had marble floors, its welcoming gallery was a vast open space with enough room to fill half a football pitch; the armchairs were heavenly; the view of the Dublin mountains was glorious. All was peace, quiet and prosperity. Outside in the street I could see stress and poverty. When I queried the senior partner about how he managed to pay the rent with the plunge in conveyancing work and the lack of corporate activity he put his finger to his lips and whispered triumphantly the single word "Nama".

Top accountants, lawyers, re-employed developers and above all, estate agents, are toasting Nama every day of their lives. All the usual suspects are being kept on life support machines by the project headed by Frank.

Nama is feeding the mouths that bit the nation's prosperity. Its willingness to employ developers, big players in the destruction of Ireland, back in their old job would drive sane men and women to trade union leader Jack O'Connor for inspiration.

The astonishing news, broken last week, that all- time favourites Arthur Cox solicitors has already earned €3.07m from Nama would be staggering if we did not live in the most incestuous commercial country in Europe.

What was Frank's reaction to the presence at his tour de force last Thursday of Bank of Ireland boss Richie Boucher and former Ulster Bank chief Cormac McCarthy? How can the Nama chairman welcome Boucher, who was a powerful force on the board of the Bank of Ireland, when it fuelled the property frenzy? What on earth had he to say to Cormac, the man who left Ulster Bank while they were reeling with unpaid property debt?

Despite their responsibility for bringing Ireland to its knees neither man is starving. Boucher has a €500,000-a-year salary. McCarthy is already back in business on the board of Paddy Power.

When he shared a drink beforehand with the two bankers Frank Daly probably muttered "thank you". If there had not been bankers like Boucher or McCarthy there would be no need for Nama. And then Frank would be out of a job.

Frank has joined the insiders. Mutual supporters have regrouped. All one happy family. God help the rest of us.

Sunday Independent

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