Who to believe on Nama’s future – Donohoe or Daly?
Cantillon: Minister says Nama will be gone by 2020, chairman says the work will go on
Photograph: Cyril Byrne
Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe and Nama chairman Frank Daly seemed to be saying different things about the State assets agency’s future on Wednesday.
Donohoe was clear that he saw no need for Nama to carry on beyond 2020. Daly, on the other hand, emphasised that the agency still had significant properties, such as the Irish Glass Bottle site in Ringsend, Dublin, that needed to be worked out over time, years in fact. “We will not get the best return by selling these assets in the short term,” he warned.
Launching Nama’s 2016 annual report 12 months ago, Daly highlighted that the Ringsend site would require the organisation to keep going beyond 2020. He did not stray too far from this on Wednesday.
Donohoe agreed that valuable Nama sites required careful decisions. Nevertheless, he suggested that the State could hold on to some of Nama’s expertise in managing those assets by moving it to House Building Finance Ireland, the body he proposed setting up in the budget.
This could mean that Nama morphs into a dedicated house-building financier, something it is already doing. However, Donohoe seemed to favour taking staff from one and moving them to the other.
The Minister highlighted Nama’s very real success on Wednesday. What it has done would have been thought impossible when it started eight years ago. So, it seems logical for the agency to beef up its residential activities as it winds the others down.
Nevertheless, Donohoe and his Cabinet colleagues may feel that Nama’s work is almost done. They might also fear fallout from investigations into the agency’s sale of its Northern Ireland loans in 2014. Even suggesting that it will be wound up means they can distance themselves from this.
Whatever the reason, while Donohoe praised Nama yesterday, he also seemed willing to bury it.