John McManus: Welcome back Richard Barrett your country needs you
Somewhat inexplicably the Government do seem slow to take up his offer of help
Richard Barrett: Publicly expressed his concern over the State’s failure to provide adequate levels of social housing. Photograph: Eric Luke Staff Photographer
Richard Barrett would appear to have discovered the property developers’ equivalent of religion. Twice in as many weeks, the former Treasury Holdings boss has publicly expressed his concern over the State’s failure to provide adequate levels of social housing.
This may seem incongruous coming from a man who was always thought of as a fully signed-up member of the red-in- tooth-and-claw school of capitalism, along with his former partner Johnny Ronan. But we must welcome his offer to help nonetheless. There is no time to waste.
As Barrett put it himself so movingly on last Sunday’s Marian Finucane show: “There is an enormous humanitarian crisis of epic proportions which is causing a great deal of human suffering.”
Indeed, he went on to remind us that the State’s social housing crisis is “proportionally much larger than the Syrian refugee crisis” and up to 300,000 people on the housing list don’t have satisfactory housing.
He proposes a simple solution. The creation of a social housing Czar with the power to cut through red tape and just get the houses built. Indeed, he sounds like the very man for the job, but modesty no doubt prevents him from putting his name forward. We have no such concerns and are happy to say here and now that he should get the job.
You might think the idea of a social housing Czar sounds a bit excessive and perhaps more in keeping with the way they do things in China, where Barrett has spent a lot of his time recently. You might be right. But Barrett is also right and extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures. Among them should be the wiping clean from the national consciousness of what some might consider the less-than-public- spirited behaviour of Barrett and Ronan in the dying days of Treasury Holdings, their defunct property company.
Such things matter little when you are dealing with a crisis on the scale that Barrett so eloquently articulated.
Treasury then transferred its 100 per cent interest in Daylasin to Barrett and Ronan for €100,000. Barrett also took over two other companies for something close to one-fifth of their real value.
“Who cares?” I hear you ask. So what if Nama objected on the basis that it believed the shares in CREO – which held investments in Chinese real estate – were really worth €28.3 million. Or that Nama started a legal action against Treasury to reverse the deal.
Treasury was eventually liquidated – owing €2.7 billion to its banks including €1 billion to Nama – and the liquidator Michael McAteer joined with Nama in pursuing Barrett and Mr Ronan.
McAteer eventually reached a settlement with Barrett and Ronan that saw them make good on the Daylasin IOU. Barrett also paid full value for the other companies transferred to him. In total the settlement was worth €47 million to the liquidation.
It is to be earnestly hoped that this previous episode of ugliness has not eroded trust between Barrett and the Government. Although somewhat inexplicably they do seem slow to take up his offer of help.
As Barrett told Marian: “We have spoken to the Minister and the relevant civil servants . . . they have noted what we have to say.”