Sunday 13 June 2010

Back in the dock for players in this unholy alliance

A further inquiry is needed in light of the Moylan report that exposes the many conflicts of interest in Anglo Irish Bank's link to the DDDA, writes Neil Callanan
Developer Liam Carroll: his firm agreed to cede some of its land to the DDDA in return for being granted permission for a 16-storey building

Further probes are now likely into the implications of a High Court decision overruling planning permission granted by the DDDA for a Liam Carroll office block on Dublin's north quays that was earmarked for Anglo Irish Bank. The draft Moylan report, published last week by the DDDA, reviewed certain issues in relation to the build-up to the loss but it is clear that the issue is far from over. Sources believe an investigation by the Oireachtas's Public Accounts Committee may be warranted.

At the heart of the report is a "secret" deal whereby Liam Carroll's company agreed to cede some of its land to the DDDA for a public park in return for being granted permission for a 16-storey building in an area where the maximum height was seven storeys plus a setback storey.

It also became apparent, according to Moylan's report, that the relevant planning file was "sometimes unavailable to the public, and further that the content of the file was incomplete from time to time, when viewed by interested parties".

In many respects, the statement issued by the DDDA accompanying the report's release contained more interesting information than the report itself. Particularly striking was the revelation that in June or July 2008 a board member of the DDDA was informed by somebody outside the authority of the "true" content of an agreement between the DDDA and Liam Carroll in relation to the future development of the land. "When that board member attempted to bring the agreement to the attention of his fellow board members, he was impeded from so doing," the statement said.

The public has a right to know who impeded the board member and why. A public hearing through the Public Accounts Committee would be an ideal way of revealing this information.

Questions also need to be asked of then DDDA chairman Donal O'Connor's decision to tell Declan Moylan, who is chairman of legal firm Mason Hayes + Curran, to adopt a "co-operative" approach to his inquiry that would not result in "apportioning blame or liability on individuals". The state-owned DDDA had wasted millions on the court case and the inquiry should have been rigorous. Instead, a note to Moylan's report said he was asked "to adopt a low-key co-operative and non-confrontational style in my dealing with persons to be interviewed. I was asked not to conduct the exercise or any interviews with a view to apportioning blame or liability on individuals in due course, but to encourage interviewees to interact with me in a spirit of co-operation, seeking relevant solutions to the issues facing the authority in the future having 'learned the lessons' of the past".

His report was presented to the board on 13 December 2008 and "some small changes to the draft were made as a result of comments from board members, and a revised draft document was generated on 27 January 2009". It is that report that was released last week under Freedom of Information legislation.

Moylan withdrew from the project in September of last year because, Moylan stated, current DDDA chairwoman Niamh Brennan made clear that the extended work would "inevitably involve apportionment of blame on various parties, a direction in which I could not go in view of my earlier promises to the interviewees. I felt I could not proceed in this way either professionally or legally."

He had also learned that "an approach had been made to a key interviewee, that aspects of my draft conclusions had been discussed with him, and that recommendations had been made as to how he might communicate with me in further interview(s)".

The conflicts of interest at the heart of the DDDA in relation to this Liam Carroll site are obvious. The DDDA, which had a number of directors related to Anglo Irish Bank, backed planning approval for a building whose construction was being financed by the bank and which would also be occupied by the bank.

As the DDDA itself put it last week: "The conflicts of interest at the nexus of the relationships between the developers of that building, Anglo Irish Bank and certain individuals on the former Board of the Authority are striking. If no other controversy had occurred at the DDDA over the past 10 years, these matters alone would be sufficient to have seriously undermined public confidence in the authority. They therefore deserve the most careful scrutiny and examination."

It went on to say that "the issues which arose at that time and which emerged through the High Court case require a more far-reaching and comprehensive examination than has proved possible to date."

Other reports have followed into issues at the DDDA but the authority believes further independent investigation is required to "fully and properly address" these events.

Sunday Tribune

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