Tuesday 23 January 2018

NAMA refute Dublin County Board claims they are undermining the GAA by preventing property purchases

Dublin County CEO John Costello
Dublin County CEO John Costello

Tom Rooney

NAMA has denied claims by Dublin County Board Chief Executive John Costello that they are intentionally preventing the GAA from acquiring properties in their possession and, by doing so, are in direct violation of its own mandate.

In his report for the Dublin GAA Convention, which takes place a week from today, Costello is highly critical of the decision to sell the Spawell site in Templeogue, Dublin 6W, to a private investment fund earlier this year.

The 34.45 acre grounds had been identified by the GAA as a possible location to “bridge the gap between the capacity of Croke Park and Parnell Park,” an endeavour prioritised in The Strategy for Dublin GAA 2011-2017.

However, in June, an investment fund backed by Davy outbid the GAA by more than €500,000 in a private treaty sale that was conducted by Savills on behalf of Grant Thornton who were appointed receivers by AIB.

The Dublin board’s Strategic Implementation Committee had been monitoring the site and affected a feasibility study which found it to be ideal for the construction of a 25,000 seat stadium in addition to a further four pitches, supplementary facilities and to possibly serve as a Centre of Excellence.

KPMG were enlisted to carry out "financial modelling" on behalf of the Committee, who also lobbied the GAA for funding.

It was established that “from a development perspective, the lands could be conveniently developed on a phased basis as funds became available, with the stadium as the last piece of the jigsaw.”

Considering the “strategic value” of the site, Costello claimed that Croke Park “supported” the bid as the committee began negotiations to purchase the property. However, the board’s offer was not deemed sufficient and Costello was evidently perturbed.

“In June, it became clear that our bid was unsuccessful and we had come second to a speculative investment fund which had submitted a slightly higher bid,” he wrote.

“The Committee was bitterly disappointed with the outcome, particularly because no credit was given to the community aspect of our offer. I publically expressed our frustration at the waste of so much voluntary effort over the years and the national media picked up on the theme.”

He went on to claim that NAMA had abandoned a central tenet of their original manifesto by not aiding social and economic growth in Ireland.

“NAMA’s response was that they were not the seller, rather it was a (NAMA-appointed) receiver who was obliged to accept the highest price. This allowed NAMA to slip the noose and ignore a central piece of their mandate which is to ‘contribute to the social and economic development of the State’ as required under Clause 2 (viii) of the NAMA Act, 2009.

“Indeed, shortly after the establishment of NAMA, I expressed the view in my 2009 Secretary’s Report that the inclusion of the Community Development provision within its terms of reference represented a huge opportunity for the Association to acquire much needed playing facilities,” Costello wrote.

Furthermore, Costello claimed that NAMA have actively sought to undermine the GAA, on all levels, from availing of properties they have previously held and currently hold.

“I am aware that many clubs have engaged with NAMA to no avail. In fact, I am not aware of any of our clubs benefiting from this provision to date.

“By pushing for maximum commercial returns alone, NAMA appears to be working against the interests of our members, the very ones who have already paid dearly for the write-downs on development loans transferred to it. It is well beyond time that NAMA is required to put a line entitled ‘Social Capital’ on its balance sheet and to be held to account in this regard.”

Independent.ie put Mr Costello’s remarks to a NAMA spokesperson and the following statement was given.

“As we stated to the Irish Independent on June 18: NAMA is not the seller. The property is being sold by a receiver who is obliged to accept the highest offer on behalf of the debtor.  The receiver could not have accepted a lower bid simply because it was received from a sporting organisation.

“The debtor could have sued the receiver if that was to happen. Taxpayers would have been disadvantaged if the property was sold to a bidder for less than another bidder was willing to pay.’”

“In response to Mr Costello’s claims; Mr Costello’s understanding of the NAMA Act is clearly incorrect. NAMA acts on what represents the best outcome for all taxpayers and not specific groups of taxpayers who are interested in soccer, rugby, GAA or other sports.

"NAMA has tried to facilitate all sporting organisations where feasible, mainly through NAMA debtors agreeing leases with them.”

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