Taoiseach quizzed at IBRC loan write-offs inquiry by Denis O’Brien legal team

Micheál Martin appeared before commission to discuss 2015 private meeting with then senior Department of Finance official

Taoiseach Micheál Martin appeared on Thursday before the commission - chaired by High Court judge Brian Cregan - to discuss his 2015 private meeting with then senior Department of Finance official Neil Ryan. File photograph: Julien Behal/PA Wire

Taoiseach Micheál Martin appeared on Thursday before the commission - chaired by High Court judge Brian Cregan - to discuss his 2015 private meeting with then senior Department of Finance official Neil Ryan. File photograph: Julien Behal/PA Wire

 

Taoiseach Micheál Martin is believed to have been subjected to intense questioning by businessman Denis O’Brien’s legal team when he testified at the State commission of investigation into loan write-offs by Irish Bank Resolution Corporation (IBRC), formerly Anglo Irish Bank.

Mr Martin appeared on Thursday before the commission - chaired by High Court judge Brian Cregan - to discuss his 2015 private meeting with then senior Department of Finance official Neil Ryan.

Mr Ryan, then an assistant secretary general on secondment at the State-owned bank, met the Fianna Fáil leader, who was leader of the Opposition at the time, at Mr Ryan’s Dublin home.

The commission was established in 2015 by the then Fine Gael-Labour coalition government to investigate IBRC transactions involving a loss of €10 million or more to the nationalised bank.

The first module of the investigation is looking at the sale of building services company Siteserv, now called Actavo, to Isle of Man company Millington controlled by Mr O’Brien for €45 million in 2012. The deal involved IBRC writing off a loan of €119 million.

The investigation is also looking into the deterioration in the relationship between the Department of Finance and IBRC management team led by chairman Alan Dukes, former Fine Gael minister, and chief executive Mike Aynsley, the banker recruited to run the nationalised bank following Anglo’s collapse.

Mr Martin made his appearance at the inquiry via a Zoom video call. He is understood to have been questioned about his meeting with Mr Ryan and what was discussed about IBRC.

The meeting arose following contacts between Mr Martin, then Fianna Fáil TD Colm Keaveney and public relations executive Karl Brophy about matters relating to IBRC that Mr Ryan knew about.

Details of the meeting featured in the long-running case taken by Mr O’Brien against Mr Brophy, his PR company Red Flag and others in which the businessman claims that the PR firm was involved in a conspiracy against him - a claim denied by Mr Brophy and Red Flag.

The Taoiseach is believed to have been subjected to intense questioning by Mr O’Brien’s legal team about whether he received bank documents relating to the businessman.

It is understood Mr Martin’s position is that the meeting with Mr Ryan related mainly to IBRC rather than the Siteserv transaction and that the meeting came about as a result of the contacts with Mr Brophy.

Mr Martin’s appearance before the commission comes a week after former Fine Gael politician Michael Noonan, who was minister for finance at the time of the Siteserv transaction, testified.

When he was leader of the opposition, Mr Martin was highly critical of Mr Noonan and the Department of Finance in its oversight of Siteserv transaction. He pushed for the establishment of the commission of investigation that was created in June 2015.

The inquiry enters its seventh year next month and has yet to produce a report on its findings of the investigation into loan write-offs. The commission has received multiple extensions from the Government, including from Mr Martin as Taoiseach last month, to conclude its work.

The latest extension allows the commission to continue its work until October.

The investigation cost the State more than €9.4 million by the end of February but the inclusion of legal fees could push the final cost to as high as €30 million or even up to €70 million, the Dáil has been told.