Perry’s grip on ministry becoming more tenuous
Unexpected news of his tax difficulties while in office has only amplified questions over his future
Minister of State John Perry arriving at Government Buildings this month for a vote on the abortion Bill. On April 16th this year he was in the news for asking bank chiefs to an advisory group meeting to discuss lending and debt problems with small and medium-sized business
Internal Danske Bank records filed in the Commercial Court suggest John Perry’s finances veered into the danger zone in 2011, the year he became Minister of State for Small Business. Can he maintain his increasingly tenuous grip on his ministry? That seems doubtful.
In public at least, senior Government figures are unwavering in their support for Perry. Within the Kenny administration, the argument goes that he is simply another victim of recession, like many thousands of others, and should be given space to put his precarious affairs in order. Private attitudes within the Coalition are more circumspect. Unexpected news of his tax difficulties while in office has only amplified questions over his future.
These are torrid times indeed for Perry, a Fine Gael stalwart in Co Sligo who has been in business in Ballymote since the mid-1970s. He once recounted working 100 hours per week for 20 years, serving revellers chips at 3am after the Saturday disco and opening a shop at 9am the morning after.
In an interview 13 years ago, Perry told how he borrowed heavily in 1989 and 1990 to revamp his supermarket. “Borrowing that much money gave me great understanding of business. I’m not saying I never made a mistake, but mistakes that cost you money are the ones you never make again . . .” he said at the time.
Lessons learned, and learned again. Danske secured judgment against Perry and his wife Marie for €2.47 million in the Commercial Court last Monday, although the ruling was stayed to September 2nd to allow time for a final attempt to restructure the loans. If it is a given that the default on his Danske loans seriously erodes his credit standing with other lenders, the damage to his political credibility is no less severe.
Perry’s responsibility for small business means he should not be in any way compromised in his political dealings with the banks but he apparently is, and in a very public way too. He is known to have used his ministerial title when signing correspondence on his personal loan issues with Danske and he has taken a vocal public stand on financing issues for small business.
While court disclosures make clear his difficulties with Danske, Land Registry filings point to unquantified borrowings from other institutions. They are: Allied Irish Banks; Bank of Ireland; EBS; ACC Bank; and Irish Life & Permanent. All except ACC are owned or backed by the State.
Given the disarray in Perry’s financial affairs, the question arises as to whether the Government should have made him Minister at all after the February 2011 general election. According to an informed source, the understanding then was that “matters were in hand”.
Whatever about Perry’s acceptance of the post, minutes of meetings with Danske officials show he was mired in financial difficulty within a year of taking office. The minutes were among the exhibits in this week’s Commercial Court proceedings.