Fitzpatrick to be called before Dáil committee


A DÁIL COMMITTEE has begun an investigation into the largest property transaction in the history of the State, the purchase of the Irish Glass Bottle site in Ringsend, which could end up costing the taxpayer almost half a billion euro.

Former Anglo Irish Bank chairman Seán Fitzpatrick is among those who will be called to give evidence by the Dáil Public Accounts Committee over his role in financing the €431 million deal in 2007.

The investigation will focus on the involvement in the deal of a State agency, the Dublin Docklands Development Authority (DDDA), which was a 26 per cent shareholder in the joint venture with developer Bernard McNamara. At the time, Mr Fitzpatrick was a director of both Anglo and the authority, while Lar Bradshaw was the chairman of the authority and a director of Anglo.

The committee’s inquiries got off to an inauspicious start yesterday when a member sharply criticised the evidence of the head of the authority, Loretta Lambkin. Chairman John McGuinness (FF) said he was deeply disappointed with the information provided by her, and said she should have prepared better so members could get a clearer understanding of the background to the deal.

Ms Lambkin, who was appointed as acting chief executive last March but was a senior executive in 2007, had begun her evidence by apologising for serious “errors of judgment” by the agency, particularly its involvement in buying the glass bottle site. It was clear that a number of decisions were wrong and had exposed the authority to considerable costs, she said.

The authority is being wound up after a report by the Comptroller and Auditor General last month disclosed serious shortcomings in the deal. The site is now valued at only €45 million while the deal has cost the authority €52 million. Since the loans involved have since been acquired by Nama, the total cost to the taxpayer could be about €500 million, according to TDs.

The report found the authority told the Department of the Environment that the value of the Irish Glass Bottle site was approximately €220 million at a time it was actively discussing an outlay of more than €400 million for it.

The authority did not conduct a detailed risk analysis of the deal, nor did it get the site independently valued before the purchase went ahead, according to the report.

Ms Lambkin said she had no direct involvement in the deal but acknowledged that the DDDA board had relied on the expertise of Mr McNamara in determining the final bid “as he saw fit”. This was a mistake.

Fine Gael TD Paschal Donohoe said the deal involved a “network or web of intimacy and influence for which the taxpayer has paid dearly”.

Community gain for Dubliners had been “capsized” by property speculation by a State agency with a big developer.

Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald criticised Ms Lambkin’s characterisation of the deal as an “error of judgement”, saying this was a misrepresentation of the catastrophe that had occurred.