Shatter calls on Johnny Ronan to explain Auschwitz reference

Developer signed off statement with phrase associated with Nazis

Former minister for justice Alan Shatter has expressed his astonishment with Johnny Ronan signing off his written statement to the banking inquiry with an apparent reference to second World War concentration camps.

At the end of his statement, in which he claims the National Asset Management Agency destroyed his business, Ronan wrote "'Arbeit macht frei' nó, i nGaeilge, 'Tugann saothar saoirse'."

The phrase, which translates as “work sets you free” was written over the entrance to camps in Auschwitz, Sachsenhausen and Dachau, amongst others.

Shatter said: “It is beyond my personal comprehension that the notorious and diabolically misleading ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’ which greeted the tragic and doomed victims of Nazi tyranny as they entered the Auschwitz Concentration Camp, would be proclaimed by Mr John Ronan, who is an internationally known Irish businessman, in a witness statement made by him to an Irish Parliamentary Committee, the Joint Committee of Inquiry into the Banking Crisis.


The Fine Gael TD for Dublin South continued, “It is totally bizarre that he felt the need to have the statement translated into Irish. I can only presume that he did not know the origin of the phrase or its misuse to seductively encourage people to cooperate in their own death and destruction and in that of their loved ones.

"I am calling on Mr Ronan to formally seek to have this phrase removed from his statement and to provide an explanation for its original inclusion.

“I believe it is entirely inappropriate that such a phrase appear on the Irish Parliament’s website available for global viewing. It is noteworthy that John Ronan’s statement as published has, in places, been redacted.

“I do not know what consideration, if any, was given to redacting this offensive and despicable phrase which is synonymous with Nazi inhumanity.

“I believe that the Chairman of the Committee should arrange for redaction of the phrase but that should not excuse Mr Ronan from giving an explanation for his use of it.”

In his statement Mr Ronan said he has grave concerns about the operation of Nama. Mr Ronan's company Treasury Holdings (TH) has just exited Nama after repaying €300 million in debt.

In his correspondence, the developer said: “My relationship with Nama started well and, on its establishment, the RGRE [Ronan Group Real Estate Limited] and TH teams were both instructed to engage fully with Nama and provide whatever information and assistance it required.”

“However, in time and by the actions of certain individuals in Nama, that relationship deteriorated significantly culminating in the enforcement on Treasury Holdings and consequently destroying that business and the significant development opportunities (including Battersea) it held.

“Nama, by its founding legislation, was granted such wide reaching and potentially unconstitutional powers that, unless it came under constant and careful scrutiny, it was always open to abuse.

Mr Ronan said it was his belief that individuals in Nama were prejudicial towards Treasury Holdings.

He said it his belief they made a decision to “take it down, whatever the consequence and regardless of the cost to the taxpayer”.

Mr Ronan also criticised Government officials and claimed they “deferred to Nama, refused to meet us or get involved”.

He said the organisation wanted to make an example of Treasury Holdings.

The developer said: “In my view, it would be mistake to look back over that time and consider Nama to be a success.

“It was widely referred to as the largest property company in the world. Yet, it was led by former civil servants with no proper real estate experience.

"That is akin to asking an accountant to fly an airplane or a butcher to perform heart surgery." Read the full statement here