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Archive for October 7th, 2011

Minister for Finance Michael Noonan appeared before the Seanad yesterday where he answered a range of questions on the economy. The transcript of the session is now available here. Unsurprisingly he was asked about NAMA, in particular by Senator Marie-Louise O’Donnell who was exercised by NAMA’s secrecy. Unfairly I think, she characterized NAMA as being comprised of “wide boys” which, according to my dictionary, means “a man who is prepared to use unscrupulous methods to progress or make money”. Alas NAMA made a paper loss of €1.1bn in its first full year of operation, and although it is projecting an operating profit before impairments of €500m in 2011, the fact that the Irish commercial and residential markets have continued to tank will probably mean an overall loss this year also. Maybe Marie-Louise meant the NAMA “wide boys” -whose CEO is the €430,000 plus 60% bonus Brendan McDonagh and whose headcount now numbers 200 employees who earn an average salary understood to be €175,000 – were good at making money personally for themselves.

Minister Noonan was having none of it and described NAMA’s staff as being “above reproach” and “they are good public servants who are working very hard.” Minister Noonan described NAMA chairman, Frank Daly as “an open, decent man and a good public servant”

In response to the charges of secrecy, Minister Noonan confirmed the dedicated NAMA email address for TDs and Senators first reported on here last month. There is also a dedicated phone number. Minister Noonan said “They [TDs and Senators] are forbidden under law from lobbying but they are entitled to information, which is a way around much of the confidentiality restriction. If someone feels he has been wronged, he can get a read-out by getting a public representative to make a telephone call. He is legally protected because this has been officially agreed.” If you listen very carefully, you can probably hear the stampede of developers down to their local constituency offices!

Elsewhere Minister Noonan surprised the Seanad by saying that “a senior international banker has spent the last ten days examining NAMA for me. I am to meet him tomorrow evening and he will advise me” The former banker is understood to be this man, Michael Geoghegan who was the CEO of HSBC until March 2010. Minister Noonan went on to say that he did “not propose to change the [NAMA] legislation yet. In the last three months NAMA has moved more efficiently than was previously the case” There was no evidence offered to support that contention or indeed how or why NAMA was operating less efficiently beforehand, but Minister Noonan did praise NAMA for the sale of the Maybourne loans last week.

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