Noonan testifies at inquiry into loan write-offs at IBRC

Former minister for finance asked about department’s relationship with State bank

Former minister for finance Michael Noonan testified last week at the State inquiry into loan write-offs at the former Anglo Irish Bank about the lender's relationship with his former department.

Mr Noonan appeared before the commission of investigation – chaired by High Court judge Brian Cregan – that is examining transactions where there was a loss of €10 million or more to the State-owned bank, renamed Irish Bank Resolution Corporation.

The former Fine Gael TD testified about the acrimonious relationship between the Department of Finance and the new management team at the former Anglo Irish Bank – where his former Fine Gael cabinet colleague Alan Dukes was chairman – in 2011 and 2012.

There were considerable tensions between the bank and the department and previous internal department records showed that Mr Noonan was “very uneasy” about the relationship.

Despite the acrimony between the bank and the department, Mr Dukes, himself a former Fine Gael finance minister, was reappointed chairman of the bank by Mr Noonan.

Mr Noonan's appearance came a week before Taoiseach Micheál Martin is due to give evidence on Thursday about his private meeting in 2015 with Neil Ryan, then an assistant secretary general at the department who was seconded to work at the former bank in 2012.

It is understood that Mr Noonan was asked about Mr Martin’s meeting with Mr Ryan.

Siteserv questions

He was also questioned about allegations made in the Dáil in 2015 by then Independent TD Catherine Murphy, now co-leader of the Social Democrats, about the sale of building services company Siteserv to a company controlled by businessman Denis O’Brien.

The commission of investigation has been looking at the sale of the business, now called Actavo, to Mr O’Brien’s Isle of Man company Millington for €45 million in 2012.

The company had a loan of €119 million to IBRC written off in the deal.

The Cregan commission, which has been running since 2015, enters its seventh year next month, having been extended several times following a series of missed deadlines. The investigation has yet to produce a report into any findings relating to loan write-offs at IBRC.

It cost €9.4 million by the end of February but the final cost could be in the order of €30 million, according to the department, or potentially up to €70 million, according to an estimate suggested in the Dáil, once the fees of lawyers representing parties are included.

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell is The Irish Times’s Public Affairs Editor and former Washington correspondent