Perry emerges badly despite backing from Taoiseach
John Perry and Enda Kenny: He retains the Taoiseach’s support but his ministerial stock has been laid very low indeed
A last-minute debt restructuring deal with Danske Bank provides a lifeline to John Perry, who faced the prospect of financial and political ruin when the bank secured judgment for €2.47 million against him and his wife Marie in July.
Perry has won time with the agreement but his standing as minister of state has been severely undermined. He retains the support of Taoiseach Enda Kenny but serious questions remain as to whether he can credibly continue in Government in command of the small business portfolio.
The junior Minister’s statement last evening disclosed little enough about the new arrangement with Danske, with which he has been in prolonged and difficult talks over unpaid debts since the start of 2012.
The agreement is understood to involve assets disposal and longer loan maturities but the debt itself is not settled. A Commercial Court judgment against him remains in place, as does a bank-appointed receiver.
Perry will still have to work hard to uphold his side of the bargain, something he was unable to do in the face of a torrent of Dankse pressure when his finances veered out of control not long after he took office.
In many respects, the embattled Minister has met difficulties similar to those confronted by thousands of small business owners and mortgage holders.
Now that he has reached agreement with his bank, the hope must that he can indeed overcome his troubles and establish order in his affairs. That is only reasonable.
In political terms, however, Perry emerges badly from this affair. Court records show he used his formal ministerial title in correspondence with Danske on his private difficulties. Not only that, but he borrowed from the State-owned Allied Irish Banks to meet certain business liabilities and borrowed from the State-supported Bank of Ireland to meet a big tax bill.
Perry’s statement says all his tax affairs have been and remain up to date – but can he seriously exercise any political authority in exchanges with the banks on small business matters? Hardly.
Further nagging questions arise in relation to the code of conduct for office holders.
His increasingly fraught engagement with Danske is set out in court exhibits and it is fair to assume he spent the summer trying to reach an agreement with Danske.
Still, the official code of conduct says an office-holder “should not carry on a professional practice while in office”. It goes on to say they “may make arrangements for the maintenance of a practice until such time as s/he ceases to be an office-holder and returns to the practice”.
The code also says office-holders “should not take any part in the decision-making or management of the affairs of a company or practice and should dispose of, or otherwise set aside for the time being, any financial interests which might conflict, or be seen to conflict, with their position as an officeholder”.
Perry has never answered how he reconciles his dealings with Danske with his obligations under the code. He retains Kenny’s support but his ministerial stock has been laid very low indeed.