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Property crisis and bitter court battles that just won't go away

The Dublin Docklands Development Authority (DDDA) has been in the news for all the wrong reasons since the collapse of the property boom.

Claims of conflicts of interest, high-profile court cases and a land deal that has turned sour are now what the agency is known for, rather than regeneration.

Its money-no-object attitude throughout the last decade was highlighted when it emerged in 2009 the DDDA had paid almost €1m to consultancy companies linked to its board of directors.

More unwanted headlines came about in 2008 when three of the biggest players in Ireland's property industry came into conflict over the DDDA's plans to create a 'mini Manhattan' in the heart of the IFSC.

Separate claims by high-flying property magnates Johnny Ronan and Sean Dunne of a secret deal given to developer Liam Carroll landed the DDDA in the High Court.

Ignore

The cases, taken by Ronan's Spencer Dock Developments and Dunne's Mountbrook Homes respectively, centred on the DDDA's agreement in 2007 allowing Carroll to ignore the 2002 North Lotts Planning Scheme, and to pursue a new plan with the DDDA.

In return, Mr Carroll agreed to cede a strip of land to the DDDA, which it had planned to excavate for the construction of a new canal within the IFSC.

DDDA chairwoman Prof Niamh Brennan said last year that Anglo Irish Bank's "culture" influenced the way in which the DDDA "conducted its business".

As a result, the authority "became very focused on development and used planning to facilitate and encourage development", she said.

The authority's property assets were written down by €186m last year.

Ms Brennan also said that the "introduction of the Anglo Irish Bank into the authority was not done by government appointments, it was done in reverse".

Lar Bradshaw became the first chairman of the DDDA and, within a year, Anglo's Sean FitzPatrick had joined the board.

"At that stage everything is fine. What happened next and... was replicated, was that Mr Fitzpatrick invited Mr Bradshaw to join his board [at Anglo]," Ms Brennan said.

She said that this had introduced the cross directorates "which then compromises the independence of the individual directors on the two boards and to a certain extent the two organisations".

The most controversial deal the DDDA was involved in was the purchase of the Irish Glass Bottle site in Ringsend for over €400m at the height of the property boom.

The site is now valued at about €50m.

Ms Brennan said the deal has had "a pretty serious effect on the authority's position".

"It is regrettable that we purchased a share of a site at the highest price in the market.

"If one could change history, one would like to change history," she added.


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