Sunday 29 November 2009

Anglo Irish 'culture' infected the DDDA

Anglo Irish Bank's "culture" influenced the way in which the Dublin Docklands Development Authority (DDDA) "conducted its business", according to DDDA chairwoman Niamh Brennan.

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

The authority's property assets were written down by €186m last year, it was revealed last week.

Brennan has 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]," Brennan said after the publication of the authority's annual report and accounts.

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 and then when Mr O'Connor became chairman, within a few months he too was invited to join the board of Anglo".

Meanwhile, acting DDDA chief executive officer Gerry Kelly has told the Sunday Tribune that the authority is involved in a multi-million-euro arbitration dispute in relation to the U2 tower.

The arbitration involves a claim against loss of fees by architect BCDH, which designed the original winning design for the tower.

The design was later dropped.

Asked if the highest bid for a variant design won a later competition to develop the tower, Kelly said he "would not commit himself on that".

Kelly also said that the authority was considering closing CHQ, the struggling €50m retail complex it owns. "Everything is on the table... We're looking at all options at CHQ," he said.

He said the complex was having problems and other proposed uses were being looked at. Brennan said it was clear from Ms Justice Findlay Geoghegan's judgment last year, which found that the DDDA acted outside its powers in granting "fast-track" permission for the Anglo headquarters building planned by Liam Carroll,
"that planning standards were compromised by virtue of their being subsidiary to the development remit of the authority".

In relation to the €412m Irish Glass Bottle site, which has been written down to €50m, Brennan said that "with the benefit of hindsight, one transaction 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."

Sunday Tribune

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