Perry faces serious political consequences following €2.47m judgment
Analysis: resignation calls may await Minister of State for Small Business after Dáil recess
John Perry was known to have made big investments during the boom years and his subsequent financial difficulties have been known for some time. Photograph: James Connolly
Last April, Minister of State for Small Business John Perry wrote to the chief executives of Bank of Ireland and AIB asking them to meet a Government advisory group and set out their positions on funding small and medium-sized enterprises, and how they dealt with SMEs with distressed loans.
“It is imperative that we listen to the voice of small business,” said Perry. Indeed when Taoiseach Enda Kenny appointed him to the ministerial ranks it was because of Perry’s “understanding of small business”.
The extent of Perry’s understanding of distressed loans in the SME sector became clearer yesterday when the Sligo politician and his wife, Marie, consented in the Commercial Court to a judgment of €2.47 million against them in favour of Danske Bank.
The debt related to a €2.42 million loan advanced to the couple in October 2011, which itself was a restructuring of existing loans. To use the phrase made infamous by the Anglo Irish recordings, Perry as the relevant Minister had skin in the game.
The court proceedings disclosed that security and collateral on the loan included the Stone Park Restaurant, Perry’s Hardware shop in the politician’s home town of Ballymote, Co Sligo, as well as 50 acres of agricultural land.
The Fine Gael politician did not make himself available for comment yesterday and a spokeswoman said: “The matter remains before the court and he will not be making any comment until [proceedings are concluded].”
Registration of the judgment is scheduled for September 2nd. The Perrys had sought a three-month stay on the registration to allow them seek a resolution but counsel for Danske Bank objected on the grounds that they had had ample time to do so.
The judgment will create major political problems for Perry and might even cast a strong doubt on his future status as a TD. Officially the Government will make no comment about the case but privately officials have said it is a private matter for the Minister of State that does not impinge on his public duties in Government.
He will be the second Minister in the past year to have his financial affairs exposed to scrutiny, following the inclusion of Minister for Health James Reilly’s name in Stubbs’ Gazette. Politically, however, the judgment will have more ramifications for Perry.
He is, after all, the Minister for Small Business. And in his position, can he credibly call – as he did last April – for the chief executives of the country’s biggest banks to explain their position on distressed loans to an advisory group of which he is a member when he himself is in that category? The Dáil is in recess but will be returning within a fortnight of the judgment being registered.