Taoiseach due to testify at IBRC loan write-offs inquiry

Martin to be questioned next month on meeting with Department of Finance official

Taoiseach Micheál Martin is due to testify next month at the inquiry into loan write-offs at the former Anglo Irish Bank about a private meeting with a senior Department of Finance official.

Mr Martin had a two-hour private meeting in 2015 with Neil Ryan, then an assistant secretary general at the department who had worked at the State-owned Irish Bank Resolution Corporation, formerly Anglo, on secondment from the department from late 2012.

The commission of investigation – chaired by High Court judge Brian Cregan – is investigating transactions where there was a loss of €10 million or more to the nationalised bank.

The first module has focused on the sale of building services company Siteserv, now called Actavo, to an Isle of Man company called Millington controlled by businessman Denis O'Brien for €45 million in 2012. The company had a loan of €119 million to IBRC written off in the deal.

The inquiry, which has been ongoing since June 2015, is looking into the relationship between the department and IBRC as part of its examination.

Mr Martin, then leader of the Opposition, met Mr Ryan in his south Dublin home after text messages were exchanged between public relations executive Karl Brophy and then Fianna Fáil TD Colm Keaveney and between Mr Keaveney and Mr Martin setting up the meeting.

Mr Martin is scheduled to testify at the commission in the second half of next month. He has already submitted a written statement to the commission.

Yesterday the Taoiseach granted the IBRC commission a further extension to the end of October to produce its final draft report after it requested an extension from the end of this month.

A Government spokeswoman confirmed that the commission of investigation had written to the Taoiseach seeking the extension from a previous deadline of April 30th, 2021.

She declined to comment on Mr Martin’s appearance as a witness, saying: “It is inappropriate to discuss any further details of the commission’s work, which is independent of Government.”

Mr Ryan has already given a statement to and been interviewed by the commission.

The extension means that the investigation into IBRC will be running for more than six years by the time that it publishes a final report on its first module.

Missed deadlines

The commission has repeatedly missed deadlines as its investigation into the Siteserve deal has dragged on. It has heard more than 250 days of evidence running to more than 40,000 pages of transcripts with more than 100 witness statements and more than 500,000 documents.

Figures released by the Department of the Taoiseach to The Irish Times under the Freedom of Information Act show that the commission had cost just over €9.4 million by the end of February.

The commission has estimated that the cost of the Siteserv investigation will be between €12 million and €14.5 million but the department has said that the final cost could be in the order of €30 million. Aontú TD Peadar Tóibín suggested last year that the final bill could reach €70 million.

The Siteserv transaction is just one of 38 deals that could be examined by the inquiry given the number of transactions involving loan write-offs by IBRC in the wake of Anglo’s collapse.

Lawyers have been the biggest beneficiary of the investigation so far, with legal fees of €4.6 million being paid out in the first 5½ years of the commission’s work.