Ireland’s property crash could have been avoided


Had the report into the DDDA been released in March 2006, as planned, it would have exposed the corporate excesses of Anglo-Irish in the docklands and elsewhere. It could have deterred the DDDA from taking its disastrous 26% stake in 2007 in the former Irish Glass Bottle site near Ringsend which cost €450 million (with a €288 million loan from Anglo-Irish Bank) and which is now worth less than €50 million. 

The DDDA also provided fast track, and legally flawed, planning for another building on the north quays which was ear marked for the headquarters of Anglo-Irish Bank and now lies derelict as a lasting image of Ireland’s corporate collapse.

In recent weeks it has been conceded that Anglo will swallow €24 billion, and possibly up to €33.5 billion, of public monies with no hope of their return, the single most expensive Irish bank collapse of modern times. Its former chairman, Sean Fitzpatrick, has been declared bankrupt. The cranes no longer dominate the skyline along the docks once hailed by the (now dissolved) PD’s in a lavish brochure as “Ireland’s Manhattan”. In its recently published annual report the DDDA has said it has a deficit in excess of €71 million.

Following my return to the media in mid 2006 I went on to publish a series of articles, in Village magazine and subsequently the Irish Mail on Sunday, concerning Bertie Ahern’s peculiar personal finances and links to corporate interests which caused severe political discomfort for the ruling Fianna Fáil-PD coalition.
While Ahern survived as Fianna Fáil leader and Taoiseach after the 2007 general election his continuing inability to explain the sources of his finances and other matters at the Planning tribunal forced his resignation in the Spring of 2008.The tribunal is due to report its findings into allegations of planning corruption later this year.
As with the series of investigations into the banking and financial crisis (including enquiries into the DDDA headed by Niamh Brennan, by coincidence the wife of the former minister, McDowell) it may be a case of doors being closed after horses have bolted.

If the CPI had been left to do its work and expose the close relationship between Fitzpatrick and his developer and political cronies the Irish tax payer might have been saved generations of debt.
When I asked Fitzpatrick in 2006 about his apparent conflict of interest on the board of the DDDA he simply replied;
“You’re a sad bastard.”
Who is the sad one now?