Mr Perry’s difficulties

Fri, Jul 26, 2013, 05:00

One reason Taoiseach Enda Kenny gave for appointing John Perry as Minister for State for Small Business was his “understanding of small business”. The Taoiseach’s judgement has now been called into question by Mr Perry’s serious financial embarrassment, arising from his own small business activities. This week both he and his wife consented to a €2.4 million court judgment that Danske Bank had sought in relation to loans the couple had not repaid. The court has allowed a stay on the execution and registration of the judgment until 2 September. If Mr Perry then fails to come up with debt restructuring proposals that satisfy the bank, it could start bankruptcy proceedings against him. Meanwhile, Mr Kenny’s confidence in Mr Perry’s ability to continue in his ministerial role remains undiminished - at least for now.

Was Mr Kenny wise to offer Mr Perry this particular ministerial post, given that a few months after his appointment - as court documents have shown - Mr Perry was, it would then appear, already in some financial difficulty? In October 2011 both he and his wife borrowed heavily from Danske Bank in order to restructure existing loans, an overdraft account, and to provide €25,000 towards payment of taxes. Was Mr Perry right to accept the ministerial post, given his vulnerable financial state? And should he not have advised the Taoiseach of his financial difficulties, and warned of their potential to embarrass the Government? These are just some of the questions raised by the court disclosures, which, in time, will receive a detailed response.

Mr Perry, undoubtedly, is in a position to understand, from personal experience, the problems that many small businesses face as they struggle to meet loan repayments in what has been an unprecedented economic downturn. But is he best placed to do so, given the clear conflict that must arise in his different dealings with banks, as minister and private citizen: in his public role representing small business, and in his private capacity as a heavily indebted business client of many of these same banks? Can he fully and properly discharge his public duties given that conflict of interest? Mr Perry has been given some time to resolve his financial difficulties with the bank. If he fails to do so, then his continuance in office, already highly questionable in the light of court disclosures, becomes untenable.

The challenges now facing Mr Perry are formidable. A failure to satisfy Danske Bank’s demands could precipitate bankruptcy proceedings against him. And if that action were to succeed, then Mr Perry could lose not just his ministerial post, but also his Dail seat. An undischarged bankrupt cannot remain in the Oireachtas, or stand for election to the Dail or Seanad. The beleaguered Minister has neither time - nor indeed money - on his side.

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