The controvery over the sale of Siteserv and deals involving the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation continued on Saturday with former Department of Finance secretary general John Moran saying it is "regrettable" that civil servants who sought to represent the interests of the public have come under attack.
Mr Moran said recent developments appeared to be "a step back to pre-crisis mindsets among bank management" after the former chairman of IBRC, previously Anglo Irish Bank, Alan Dukes made allegations about him and its former chief executive Mike Aynsley criticised the release of documents regarding IBRC under the Freedom of Information Act.
Minister for Health Leo Varadkar said he believed the review of IBRC deals involving a significant writedown was necessary as “the reality” was that there is public concern which could not be ignored.
Mr Dukes said on Friday that IBRC rejected a proposal to appoint Mr Moran to the board of the troubled bank, as he felt it would not be appropriate.
He said he told Mr Moran it would not be a good idea “because he would be seriously conflicted”.
Mr Dukes claimed on Friday night that Mr Moran had also previously approached him when he worked for the Central Bank seeking an executive position at IBRC. Mr Moran strongly denied this on Friday night and he released a statement about the matter on Saturday.
‘A step back’
In the statement, Mr Moran said he had been working outside the country this week and did not wish to rush to comment on the recent developments until he had read the relevant transcripts and seen in full what was “said about me and former colleagues in the department”.
“I would simply add at this stage that I find it regrettable and a step back to pre-crisis mind sets among bank management that what seems to have been happening are personal attacks on civil servants asking the right questions who were representing after all the new shareholders of those banks, the taxpayers,” he said.
“It might have been better to have the time available used to deal with the substance of the issues raised by both the department and other public representatives.”
Mr Moran said he would be “happy to answer any other important issues after reading the transcripts or at the upcoming inquiry into the management of IBRC if more appropriate”.
His comments came after a day featuring a welter of claims and counterclaims involving the Department of Finance and IBRC. The controversy began initially over the bank’s handling of the sale of Siteserv, a utilities servicing group which was sold for €45 million to businessman Denis O’Brien in 2012.
Mr Aynsley on Friday accused the Government of selectively releasing documents on the Siteserv deal while Mr Dukes called for documents which were heavily redacted to be released in full.
Mr Moran has defended his action in looking to join the board of IBRC at the time, as he wanted to safeguard the State’s interest and such a role “seemed perfectly natural” to him.
When informed of Mr Moran’s denial over the IBRC job approach (not the appointment to the board while in the Department of Finance), Mr Dukes said he “stands over” his version of events.
Mr Dukes spoke in Dublin at a press conference on Friday that he organised to discuss the ongoing controversy over Siteserv.
Mr Dukes also revealed that Richard Woodhouse, then IBRC's head of asset management, was kept out of discussions over the Siteserv deal within IBRC, as he also managed the relationship between the bank and Mr O'Brien.
"We appointed Tom Hunersen instead, and also Peter Rossiter, the chief risk officer, to oversee the transaction," said Mr Dukes.
Mr Hunersen was at the time its head of corporate and institutional recovery. He left IBRC in 2013 and is now an advisor to Spritz, a US-based technology company in which Mr O'Brien is an investor.
The Government this week appointed the special liquidators of IBRC, Kieran Wallace and Eamonn Richardson of KPMG, to review the Siteserv transaction and other large sell-offs by IBRC.
Speaking in Co Kerry on Saturday at the Irish Pharmacy Union’s annual conference, Mr Varadkar said “the right thing to do” was to examine all transactions with writedowns of more than €10 million.
“The reality is there is public concern and there has been controversy and public concern raised in the Dáil and we can’t ignore that,” he said.
“But I would point out and I think it is important to point out that IBRC was created by Fianna Fáil out of the carcass of Anglo Irish Bank. They appointed the board . They appointed the chairman and all of the executives were appointed under the remit of Fianna Fáil . “
He said that “what we did when Fine Gael and Labour came to Government was to liquidate IBRC” which he said was the right decision.
He was not suggesting there was anything improper.
However “we shouldn’t forget” how IBRC came about because of the collapse of the banking system and construction industry which caused companies like Siteserv to go burst and in many cases the tax payer had to bear those losses, Mr Varadkar added.