Sunday, 6 September 2009

Irish Taken For Fools...

Vested interests: 38 politicians voting on Nama have extensive property portfolios...

Almost 40 of the politicians who will vote on the critical Nama legislation designed to clean up the banks' toxic loans to property developers have extensive property interests both here and abroad themselves.

The current register of interests, in which politicians are legally obliged to reveal any outside commercial interests, shows that, excluding the hundreds of acres of farmland owned by politicians, 38 TDs and senators have substantial development land and commercial property holdings.

These range from the relatively modest three properties held by Taoiseach Brian Cowen, including one in Leeds, to Fine Gael's Alan Shatter, who lists joint ownership with an "other" of 14 investment properties in Dublin, London and Florida.

Of the 38 politicians, 17 could be considered to have significant interests which, during the property boom, would have provided a comfortable income on their own.

Politicians must list all interests held outside politics but they are not obliged to reveal their value. While the politicians' property portfolios are unlikely to be worth anything near the billions in toxic debts owed by the likes of developer Liam Carroll, in many cases they are significant enough to raise questions about a conflict of interest about Nama.

Fianna Fáil's John McGuinness, who lost his job as junior minister in the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment last year – and who lists interests in warehouses, apartments and hotels – said politicians first and foremost are legislators.

"Politicians' property dealings are declared up front on the register of interest," said the Kilkenny TD, who confirmed his ownership interest in Rolestown House hotel, a holding company behind Kettles Country House hotel in north Dublin, which has just come out of examinership.

But McGuinness is in the ha'penny place compared to the likes of Galway TD Frank Fahey, who lists 18 separate property portfolios, most of which are in or around Galway. The Fianna Fáil TD also lists 15 apartments in Brussels, as well as houses in Dubai, Portugal, Massachusetts and France.

On top of his extensive bloodstock interest, Fine Gael's Seán Barret is a director of property company Balbrag Ltd and also holds shares in Cabinteely Property Holdings. The Dún Laoghaire TD also lists shares in a Jersey-based company Richmond Care Villages.

Opposition spokesman on health Fine Gael's Dr James Reilly declares a commercial interest in Lusk Town Centre in north Dublin. As well as accommodating a surgery, the centre houses a supermarket, offices, a bookmaker's, a gym, a restaurant and some apartments. Reilly also declares a quarter-share interest in Green Hills nursing home in Tipperary and a 1.3-acre commercial site in Swords for a one-stop-shop medical centre.

Independent TD Michael Lowry, who is the subject of scrutiny at the Moriarty tribunal, has a 10% interest in a 2.5-acre site in Mansfield in England and a 50% interest in Vineacre Ltd, a property company in Bedfordshire.

Dublin Central TD Sean Haughey, on top of a lengthy list of shareholdings, lists ownership of a 4.3-acre site in County Wexford, an "undeveloped site for mobile homes".

Outspoken Cork TD Noel O'Flynn lists part-ownership of business units in Mallow and commercial units in Dublin.

Fine Gael's Frank Feighan owns properties in Sligo and also has property interests in France, Bulgaria and Hungary. He also has an interest in a Sikh restaurant in Boyle.

In the Seanad, Fianna Fáil's Jim Walsh declares an interest in 30 acres of development land in Rathfarnham in Dublin. His colleague, Francis O'Brien, has an interest in an impressive 10 parcels of development land in Cavan, Monaghan and Mayo, as well as around half-a-dozen properties which are rented out.

Top Political Developers

Frank Fahey (FF) - 30 properties in Ireland, Brussels, Dubai, France and Portugal

Jim Walsh (FF) - Shares in Irish, UK and Dutch property funds; director of property firms in Wexford; 30 acres development land in south Dublin

Francis O'Brien (FF) - Ten separate parcels of development land; six properties

Frank Feighan (FG) - 15 properties in Ireland, Hungary, France, Bulgaria

Alan Shatter (FG) - 14 properties in Ireland and US

Report by Martin Frawley - Tribune News

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