Ireland’s property crash could have been avoided
2006 report exposing Anglo-Irish behaviour was quashed
“Had the report into the Dublin Docklands Development Authority been released in March 2006, as planned, it would have exposed the corporate excesses of Anglo-Irish bank in the docklands and elsewhere”
The report on the Corrib Gas controversy raised fundamental questions about the safety of the high pressure gas line through a small north Mayo community which contributed to a reassessment of the project, a process which is still underway.
Our next report was even more ambitious – to identify the ownership of every site in the DDDA area, the developers involved, their banking arrangements and their links to the political establishment. The reason was simple – it was the single biggest commercial development in the history of the State, the area where property prices were rising at the fastest rate and where a substantial number of the country’s first crop of billionaires were investing and profiting with the aid of a Government agency.
The CPI got early guidance from well placed sources within the DDDA machine, public servants who were concerned at the way in which a State body was easing the path for the wealthiest business interests at the direction of one the country’s most powerful bankers. Fitzpatrick sat on the board and on the key finance committee of the DDDA while the chairman of the agency, Larry Bradshaw, was appointed to the board of Anglo Irish Bank in late 2004.
This coincided with the information that Anglo-Irish was to back the Spencer Dock scheme on the north quays, involving a ‘national conference centre’, residential and commercial space and developed by Treasury Holdings, by advancing 50% of the then €300 million construction cost.
In its investigation the CPI was assisted by informed whistle blowers and by some less endowed developers watching from outside the loop. It soon emerged that a cosy and politically well connected, cartel was operating in the docklands area.
The CPI identified minutes of specific board meetings of the DDDA where a clear conflict of interest involving Fitzpatrick and Bradshaw was evident. Minutes seen by the CPI researchers showed that both participated in board discussions without declaring their commercial interest or ‘stepping outside’ when issues of potential conflict arose in decisions pertaining to the development of Spencer Dock - the brainchild of controversial property gurus, Johnny Ronan and Richard Barrett.
The CPI investigation did not go unnoticed as the questions submitted by its researchers to the DDDA and various Government departments under Freedom of Information legislation triggered political defence warnings at the highest level in cabinet. Not least in the offices of Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern (1997-2008), who was identified through the high visibility annual party fund raiser at the Galway races with many of the dockland developers that patronised the event along with one of their primary lenders, Fitzpatrick.
From early 2005, Ahern was hinting to Chuck Feeney that he did not particularly appreciate the Irish American’s funding of the CPI. It was the case that we were about to examine potentially unethical political and corporate behaviour under his watch.
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