‘Huge potential conflicts of interest’ in Siteserv deal, Martin says

Harris says IBRC not required to consult Noonan on matter before sale approved

A call has been made for an independent inquiry into the sale of Siteserv by IBRC to businessman Denis O'Brien's firm Millington at a loss of €105 million to the taxpayer.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin raised the issue during leaders' questions and asked Taoiseach Enda Kenny for an independent inquiry into the controversial sale.

Mr Martin said the only way to respond effectively to the ongoing controversy over the sale "is to have a proper inquiry to make sure nobody is getting favourable treatment over the vast majority of people out there who have challenges and difficulties in their lives because of the crash".

But Mr Kenny said he had not seen relevant newspaper issue on the matter and had not been briefed on the issue.


Mr Martin said "there are huge potential conflicts of interest all over this deal. Let us remember that we are talking about a company whose subsidiary, Sierra, went on to win the largest contract to install water meters and has now become a very profitable company in itself."

He added that “it has taken nearly a year and a half for people to get the most basic information from the system in regard to the transaction itself and how the deal was conducted”.

Mr Martin and Independent TD Catherine Murphy, who has repeatedly asked questions about the sale, raised the issue in the wake of documents released under the Freedom of Information Act in which the Department of Finance raised concerns about the sale.

Ms Murphy, who also received documents under the Freedom of Information Act later raised it as a topical issue.

She said there was a “conflict of interest” between Minister for Finance Michael Noonan’s reply to her when she first raised the issue and subsequent replies.

Mr Noonan had first told her IBRC operated at arm’s length from the State. Later he “conceded his Department was concerned about the Siteserv deal but that he was satisfied it was in the best interest of the State”. Later the Department “conducted a full review of the deal and that following this review, the Department made a decision to second one of its officials to the board of IBRC to provide greater oversight”.

She said that six months later, IBRC was wound up in a very rushed fashion.

Documents she received from the Department of Finance showed the Minister was not satisfied the deal was the best one for the State and “resulted in a less optimum return for the bank and, by extension, the State.

Minister of State Simon Harris said that at the time IBRC's efforts, as a secured lender, "to maximise the recovery on its loans to Siteserv was considered to be in the ordinary course of business".

He added: “IBRC was not required to consult the Minister for Finance on this matter in advance of making the decision to approve the sale of Siteserv.”

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is Parliamentary Correspondent of The Irish Times