Archive for April, 2012

Yesterday Minister for Finance Michael Noonan issued a statement in which he stated that the sale of the 17% stake in NAMA held by Irish Life Investment Managers had “just been agreed” and the sale was to “private investors”. The Minister isn’t saying who the new “private investors” are, and yesterday all sorts of rumours spread naming everyone from Bord Gais to Goldman Sachs to Denis O’Brien. NAMA itself decline to issue a statement which is becoming par for the course for the Agency – remember it didn’t issue a statement when it handed over €3.1bn of its cash as a temporary dig-out on the Anglo promissory note either, yet in the past it has issued press releases for what counts as little more than the acquisition of a new pencil.

So, why all the mystery? After all, we will find out very shortly anyway because NAMA is a company incorporated under Irish company law and the Agency will need notify the Companies Registration Office (CRO) of any change to the identity of its shareholders. You can see the CRO-registered shareholders, before the current transaction, of National Asset Management Agency Investment Limited from thestory.ie here.

And of course the event which prompted the sale of Irish Life Investment Managers’ shareholding – the Government taking control of Irish Life and Permanent which owns 17% of NAMA which, when added to the Government’s existing 49% stake, would mean the Government had majority control of NAMA to the tune of 66% which would mean Eurostat classified NAMA’s €28bn-odd debt as Irish General Government Debt – has been known about for many months; yesterday Eurostat in a bluntly-worded caveat about Ireland’s debt figures stated “owing to the nationalisation of one of its previously private beneficial owners, whose interest is currently under a process of sale, NAMA-IL has been in majority public ownership since July 2011.”.

So if the Department of Finance has known about the issue for nine months – because Eurostat presumably told it, though you’d expect the mandarins to have the nous to have understood the issue before being externally alerted to it – and we will shortly find out from the CRO the identity of the new investors – note the plural, Minister Noonan didn’t refer to “a new investor” but to “new investors” – then why is Minister Noonan being so demure? Is it because the “private investors” have only agreed in principle to buy the investment from Irish Life Investment Managers and that perhaps the mystery buyers needs wider approval, perhaps from stockholders, before it can proceed? That didn’t stop Minister Noonan naming Bank of Ireland as the White Knight riding to the rescue of the Anglo promissory note jig in March 2012, but if it does turn out a buyer whose agreement to buy the NAMA stake is again subject to shareholder approval, it will be hard not to conclude that the Department of Finance is a most incompetent, fumbling and un-anticipating group of administrators.

So for now, we wait with bated breath.

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The Manchester Evening News thinks NAMA is selling a development opportunity in Manchester city centre. The so-called “London Scottish” building, because it used to accommodate London and Scottish Bank has 50,000 sq ft of office space but has plans to double or even quadruple that – the building on Mount Street in Manchester city centre is pictured here. Bought by Dublin developer Liam Walls’ Walls Developments in 2007 for GBP 20m (€24m), it might be expected to fetch half of that today, according to industry monitoring group, IPD, commercial property in general in the UK is down 35% from peak in June 2007 but it is generally accepted that property outside London and the south east has suffered greater declines. It’s supposed to be offered for sale by Manchester agents WHR and by CB Richard Ellis, but it doesn’t appear to be on either agents’ websites.

Curiously there doesn’t appear to be any property on the last NAMA foreclosure list which matches this building, so it might be that the Evening News is mistaken and the property is merely being sold by the developer under NAMA’s auspices rather than being a property vesting in NAMA or its receivers from a foreclosure.

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Continuing to play no small part in supporting the most expensive market for legal services in Europe, NAMA has launched legal proceedings against the developer behind Chieftain Construction, Limerick-man Ger O’Rourke and his wife, Majella – it is the two individuals that NAMA is suing, not the company. The NAMA entity that made the application on Thursday last 19th April, 2012 at Dublin’s High Court is National Asset Loan Management Limited and is represented by Dublin solicitors, Whitney Moore which I believe is the first time this firm has been used by the Agency. The case reference is 2012 / 1451 S

Ger O’Rourke, aged 50 – pictured here on his €0.5m racing yacht – has been in the wars for some time and has previously had a €21m judgment awarded against him in favour of AIB and in March 2012, the Limerick Leader reported him saying that he had debts of over €100m with assets of less than €4m. His wife Majella had been a director of Chieftain but this is the first time that I have seen husband and wife sued by the Agency in their own right.

Chieftain Construction has been behind major projects here, in the US, South Africa and the UK including a €50m hotel-centred redevelopment around Liverpool’s Lime Street railway station.

We don’t yet have details of the current application. In the past, NAMA has taken legal action against individuals to enforce personal guarantees or to secure personal judgments, but it should be stressed that we do not know if either of these objectives lies behind the current application.

UPDATE: 24th January 2013. The Phoenix Magazine in Dublin, out today, claims that NAMA is pursuing two remedies against Ger O’Rourke and his wife, Majella. Firstly there is a €435,000 judgment against the Limerick developer, and secondly there is the reversal of the transfer of what is described as the family home at Mill House, Ballyclogh, County Limerick.  A judgment is awaited.

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You’d think buyers would be queuing up around the block of Upper Merrion Street following the decision of the Government to sell the 17% of NAMA currently owned by Irish Life Investment Managers. Well, too late, the stake has already been sold!

Although we all regard NAMA as a government agency, back in 2009 the Government was careful to structure NAMA so that its debts would stay off the national balance sheet. So the Government enticed/strong-armed three “third party independent investors” to take majority ownership of NAMA, the three being Irish Life Investment Managers (part of Irish Life and Permanent), New Ireland Assurance (part of Bank of Ireland) and Allied Irish Banks Investment Managers (part of AIB originally but sold in November 2011 to a South African investment group). Each of these three investors handed over €17m apiece for a 17% stake in NAMA and the Government put in the remaining €49m so that NAMA started out in life with a €100m capital base.

That’s the history lesson concluded. Fast-forward to today and the Government is set to take 100% control of Irish Life so the State will own not just 49% which allows NAMA’s debts to stay off the national balance sheet but 66% which would likely mean NAMA’s debts – mostly its €28bn of bond which this State has guaranteed – would come onto our General Government Debt pushing our debt next year up from 119% to 138%. This is largely academic of course if you believe that NAMA’s assets will be sufficient to pay off the NAMA bonds by 2020. NAMA has recently reported a profit for 2011 of €200m after a loss of €1,100m in 2010 and who knows, maybe it will break even or make a profit but it is a risk and the ratings agencies which examine Ireland’s ability to repay debt, generally regard NAMA’s bonds as part of the national debt with a caveat that they are backed up by assets, but that there is risk to the value of those assets.

However the Minister for Finance, Michael Noonan is taking no chances and the Department of Finance has announced this morning that the Irish Life shareholding in NAMA has been sold to “private investors”  The Minister says in the statement

“The Minister also noted the reservation in relation to the ownership of the NAMA SPV, which the Department had previously acknowledged.  He is not concerned by the reservation as the sale of the Irish Life shareholding to private investors has just been agreed.  It is anticipated that the transaction will be completed in the coming weeks and this will ensure that the reservation will be lifted and the statistical treatment of NAMA will be unchanged.  The effect of the sale will mean that NAMA will continue to have absolutely no General Government impact.  In addition, it is worth noting that provisional figures indicate that NAMA has posted a profit of €200m in 2011 and has very sizeable cash reserves.”

Who might the “private investors” be? We don’t yet know but I can’t see any completely independent third party investor wanting to take the stake, the terms of which are examined here – and which allowed the third party investors to walk away with a dividend of €5.093m in 2010 despite NAMA making a loss of €1.1bn.

For information, Irish Life Investment Managers, the outgoing shareholder, describes itself as “the asset management arm of Irish Life & Permanent plc. ILIM manages money on behalf of a wide range of clients from large multinational corporations, charities and domestic companies. Currently managing assets of in excess of €30bn”

UPDATE: 2nd May, 2012. Minister Noonan said in the Dail yesterday that “my Department has been notified that the sale of the Irish Life shareholding in the NAMA SPV to private investors has been agreed and it is anticipated that the transaction will be completed in the coming weeks”

UPDATE: 26th May, 2012. Minister Noonan is still not revealing the identity of NAMA’s new shareholder, replying to a Dail question the Minister said “the identity of the new private investors will be made public in due course when the deal is completed”

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It seems to be a moot point for the time being given that NAMA is saying it will make a profit of €200m in 2011, but Minister for Finance, Michael Noonan last week said in a reply to a parliamentary question that NAMA does not have any minimum capital requirements and can accordingly continue to operate even if balance sheet-insolvent.

So what is “balance sheet-insolvent”? This is where a company’s assets are worth less than its liabilities. For example, Independent News and Media – the loss-making media group that Denis O’Brien and the O’Reilly family are scrapping over – recently reported its preliminary 2011 financial results and said that its assets came to €573.7m, its liabilities to €596.5m and the company therefore had €22.8m of net liabilities. It is balance sheet-insolvent. Now this is not to suggest that IN&M can’t pay its bills as they fall due, it seems to have no problem at all on that front and some of its liabilities, eg its pension commitments are of a long term nature, and the company seems to have decent relations with the banks providing it with loans of  €426.8m.

Turning to NAMA, NAMA started out with €100m of capital – €49m from the State and €51m from three “independent third party” investors. In addition NAMA regards the c€1.5bn that it has paid with so-called “subordinated debt” for the acquisition of loans, as capital; why? because this subordinated debt is only payable if NAMA makes a profit over its lifetime. NAMA made a loss of €1.1bn in 2010 which ate away most of its €100m capital and €1.5bn subordinated debt, and if it were to have made a loss of more than €500m in 2011, then it would be balance sheet-insolvent. As it happens, last week the Minister for Finance announced NAMA’s preliminary results for 2011 which indicated a profit of €200m, so NAMA appears not to be at risk of becoming balance sheet-insolvent; at least not in 2011.

However the Minister’s response went further and said that even if NAMA were to become balance sheet-insolvent, it does not have a minimum capital requirement. Accordingly it seems on here that NAMA will not require additional capital from the State for a couple of years at least, but once the better assets are sold off and as NAMA approaches the 2020 deadline for repaying all its bonds, that position may change. Here’s the Minister’s full response to Sinn Fein’s finance spokesperson, Pearse Doherty.

“NAMA is not a corporate body established under the Companies Acts. It is a statutory body established under the NAMA Act, 2009 and has no minimal capital requirements. I should clarify that I am advised by NAMA that it is not balance sheet insolvent. As with any business, the key obligation for the Agency in terms of solvency, is to ensure it continues to have sufficient cash to meet its short term funding obligations. At 31 March 2012, the Agency had liquid resources of €4.6 billion, comprising cash of €3.6 billion and short-term Irish Government bonds (maturity of less than one year) of €1.0 billion. This was after the repayment of Senior Bonds of €1.25 billion during 2011 and the full repayment of the €299 million loan provided by the Central Fund to NAMA on its inception.

The main charge in the 2010 financial statements was a €1.49bn loan impairment loss. This is an unrealised loss with no short term cash impact on the Agency. However, this loss did reduce the amounts of capital and reserves of the Agency. NAMA is expected to still continue to have positive reserves at end 2011”

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There is no sign of any abatement in NAMA’s appetite to take legal action. On Friday last, the Agency made an application in Dublin’s High Court against three individuals, two of whom are current partners in Limerick law firm McMahon O’Brien and the third appears to have been a former partner in the same firm when it traded as McMahon O’Brien Downes – the individuals are Denis McMahon, Paul O’Brien and Seamus Downes. The case reference is 2012 / 1475 S and the NAMA entity bringing the action is National Asset Loan Management Limited represented by Eversheds solicitors. There are no solicitors on record for the defendants who are solicitors in their own right and there is no scheduled hearing date yet.

NAMA has taken extensive foreclosure action against property companies associated with Paul O’Brien – pictured here with former Taoiseach Brian Cowen and current TD, Mattie McGrath. In January 2012 NAMA had receivers appointed to three companies associated with Paul O’Brien, at the start of March 2012 it had receivers appointed to two more and later in March NAMA initiated legal action against companies and individuals including Paul O’Brien and Denis McMahon.

We don’t yet have details of the current application. In the past, NAMA has taken legal action against individuals to enforce personal guarantees or to secure personal judgments, but it should be stressed that we do not know if either of these objectives lies behind the current application.

UPDATE: 23rd April, 2012. Two further applications have appeared on the Courts Service website, both dated last Friday 20th April 2012 and both connected with Paul O’Brien. The first is case reference 2012/1473 S and the five defendants are Greenband Investments,  John Costello, John Hegarty, Paul O’Brien and MKI Property Investments. The second is case reference 2012/1474 S and the four defendants are Paul O’Brien, Joseph McNamara, James McNamara and Gerard McNamara.

UPDATE: 19th June, 2012. The Irish Independent reports that NAMA has obtained judgment orders against  Paul O’Brien (€58m) and Denis McMahon (€13.8m). The cases are ongoing against other defendants and there remains the matter of interest payable.

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“and by the way being declared bankrupt in the UK does not mean NAMA loses interest in you -far from it” NAMA chairman Frank Daly during radio interview in April 2012

On Friday last, it was reported in Iris Oifigiuil that NAMA had receivers appointed to Tivway Limited, a company already in receivership and liquidation. Tivway was one of Cork developer’s John Fleming’s main companies.61-year old John – pictured herewas discharged from bankruptcy in the UK in November 2011 after submitting himself to the UK’s one-year bankruptcy period in November 2010, and he might have expected last November that he could get on with his life without looking over his shoulder.

He didn’t figure on NAMA which was reported by the Irish Times in March 2012 to be pursuing John for a so-called “income purchase order” which would entitle NAMA to garnish his income for the next three years. That application in the British courts is ongoing, but we get further detail today about NAMA’s plans in the Sunday Independent where Tom Lyons claims that NAMA is now pursuing John’s pension, with Louise Brittain of Deloitte apparently appointed to review the matter on NAMA’s behalf.

Although pensions are not protected under Ireland’s archaic and draconian bankruptcy law, they are under UK law, but there limitations on protection, and the Sunday Independent cites an Irish company that facilitates UK bankruptcy for Irish people, who says that Irish pensions need be transferred to approved UK pensions before they become protected.

John Fleming’s property empire collapsed with debts of over €1bn, and it emerged that John was hopelessly bankrupt and given his home and business in theUK, it seemed natural he would seek bankruptcy as a solution to an impossible situation. But having emerged from theUK’s relatively lenient one-year bankruptcy term, it now seems NAMA continues its hot pursuit of outstanding debt, perhaps to decourager les autres.

Last week, it was reported that NAMAed developer and solicitor Noel Smyth has changed his registered address from Dublin to south London, but he specifically denied this was a precursor to a bankruptcy application. We are still unclear as to why Spain Courtney Doyle has relocated to London.

UPDATE (1): 22nd April, 2012. With thanks to WSTT below and Gavin Daly in the Irish edition of the Sunday Times today (available with subscription), we learn that NAMAed developer Patrick Fitzpatrick had been declared bankrupt in the UK. In well known financial distress for some time, Patrick together with his brother Tony and racing car enthusiast/developer Paddy Shovlin were at the receiving end of a NAMA judgment order in October 2010, and have lately seen their Beacon South Quarter and other assets including 1 King William Street in the City of London sold off to pay their debts.  Here is Patrick’s bankruptcy record at the UK’s Insolvency Service.

Gavin also reports at the Sunday Times today that the developers behind Ellen Construction, Martin and Michael Doran have also both been declared bankrupt in the UK.  Ellen Construction wasn’t publicly associated with NAMA though it is understood it had borrowings from non-NAMA bank, Ulster Bank. Here are the two bankruptcy records.

UPDATE (2): 22nd April, 2012. The value of John Fleming’s pension pot is in doubt. It is referred to in today’s Sunday Independent as “multimillion” but a report in the highly detailed article in the Southern Star last November 2011 said it was worth just over €527,000.

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Graph of the Week


Goldman Sachs thinksIreland’s competitive adjustment is complete. In pre-euro days if we had a financial crisis then our exchange rate with other currencies would weaken and our costs in international currency would reduce. Sadly that can’t happen in the euro which includes Germany at one end and Greece at the other. So we “internally devalue” as wages and other enterprise costs reduce. Goldman Sachs thinks that in our case, the internal devaluation is complete. Unfortunately for the EuroZone, Greece, Portugal, Spain and to a limited extent Italy still need adjustments – can they take more austerity?

Photograph of the Week

When NAMA developer David Agar had a whinge about his treatment at the hands of NAMA, he claimed that NAMA wouldn’t be happy until every developer in the country was living in a 3-bedroom semi and driving a Cortina. Some of the younger members of the audience here mightn’t know what a “Cortina” is, so the sale this week of a 1981 Ford Cortina in Scotland for GBP 10,000 (€12,000) might help you. Now this Cortina is special and has never been driven, and this was the last version of the car which underwent many transformations from when it was launched in the 1960s, the car above is the Mark V, my personal favourite was the Mark III which looks a bit like the American Dodge Charger. It’s a bit boxy but still a handsome enough car. David Agar’s nightmare, though.

And secondly this was the week of another high profile eviction from a family home in Ireland. An elderly couple was evicted from their €2m home in an upmarket Dublin suburb. It transpired that the couple own 21 properties in the State and are therefore landlords of some substance. They are presently camping out in front of their former home which is reportedly subject to a mortgage from Anglo. On the face of it, the couple is in far better financial shape than many in this State. But having said that, the pictures of an elderly couple being dragged from their home, the screams, the manhandling of the husband, the restraint of the wife and a couple left comforting each other as Gardai and bailiffs oversaw the repossession was powerful. This Government has been warned; it needs to fast track bankruptcy reform and better policies for dealing with mortgage distress where one in eight mortgages is either in arrears or has been restructured.

Social phenomenon of the Week

We’re becoming the “no comment” nation.

“A garda spokesman declined to respond to this criticism, saying it did not comment on operational matters.” Response to request for comment on policing the Labour party Ard Fheis in Galway last week end and the use of pepper-spray against protesters.

“We don’t comment on speculation about individual transactions, but we’ve previously indicated that we are optimistic that we will secure a satisfactory deal in respect of this property in the medium term and that remains our position,” NAMA spokesperson April 16th in response to a request for comment on the purchase of the Anglo HQ shell

“We don’t comment on the specifics of individual negotiations” – Central Bank of Ireland, April 16th in response to a request for comment on the purchase of the Anglo HQ shell

“His wife, who remained outside the house from which they were evicted, declined to comment citing legal matters before going into a neighbour’s house.” Asta Kelly, one half of the couple evicted from their €2m home in Killiney during the week

“Mr O’Brien, who owns 22 per cent of IN&M, declined to comment.” The aftermath of the “resignation” of Independent News and Media’s CEO, Gavin O’Reilly, after pressure on the debt-laden, balance sheet-insolvent media company from the company’s largest shareholder, Denis O’Brien

Fine Gael TDs declined to comment publicly yesterday” following pressure on Fine Gael deputy Olivia Mitchell against whom the Mahon Tribunal made adverse findings about inappropriate payments. Deputy Mitchell disputes the findings. Mind you “no comment” might have been better than the pronouncement of one unnamed FG TD who said “Olivia is a damn fine representative for the people of Dublin South. She was on the wrong side of the heave against Enda and will never be advancing but she’s still enthusiastic”
Quotation of the Week

“We cannot have a position where taps could be left running endlessly”  An Taoiseach Enda Kenny struggling to defend the disorganization apparent in the introduction of a new water charge

“I see meters as the friend of the householder and friend of business as they’ll prevent people from paying for water that’s wasted” Minister for Finance Michael Noonan defending the introduction of water meters

“Hurrah for fornication” champion of the turbary sector, Deputy Luke Flanagan during the poignant debate on the limited introduction of abortion in Ireland, a debate that veered from the emotional with Deputy Mick Wallace in tears, to the bizarre such as the 40-year old virgin from Mayo, Deputy Michelle Mulherin – that’s a presumption, by the way, about the unmarried Mayo solicitor and her apparent aversion to “fornication”, the Biblical language of judgment she invoked during the debate. In the end the proposed new legislation to allow abortion in this State in very limited cases was defeated 109-20. Another 80 Irish women are estimated to have traveled to theUK last week to obtain abortions.

Phonetic boo-boo of the week

Fionnan “stick two bolts in my neck and call me Adam” Sheahan claims this is how you pronounce “fornication”


In the backend of Leitrim perhaps, generally it’s pronounced fawr-nee-kAy-shun

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If you believe the Sunday Independent’s Anne Harris curious editorial last week which claimed that journalists at the paper were unaware of the views/composition of the board of management and that there is clear blue water anyway between the management of the Independent News and Media and editorial decisions, then you can expect tomorrow’s edition to continue the recent campaign against Denis O’Brien. There were 10 largely anti-O’Brien articles in last week’s Sunday Independent. How many will we see tomorrow? Will we see Denis O’Brien’s extensive aid effort in Haiti after the catastrophic earthquake being criticised because no giant cheque was presented to the Haitian people as seems a requirement at IN&M’s Sunday World? Will we see a Niamh Horan exclusive “Denis O’Brien has a small willy”? Will there be a headline “Denis O’Brien ate my hamster, while pal Bill ate my pussy”? Will there be a promotion of the O’Reillys “Ireland is a simply marvellous place and the Irish are a grand bunch of lads say O’Reillys (from London)”? Who knows, but certainly the Denis O’Brien dealings with Siteserv seem to have disappeared from the media.

Which is curious because during the week, Minister for Finance Michael Noonan was asked the question on the lips of most people looking in on the Siteserv deal – why was Anglo, or IBRC as it is now known, writing off more than €100m on its €150m loan to Siteserv, and at the same time Siteserv shareholders were walking away with €5m. Minister Noonan was responding to a parliamentary question from Sinn Fein’s finance spokesperson, Pearse Doherty and here’s the defence

“commercial decisions in relation to IBRC are solely a decision for the bank. IBRC have informed me that KPMG Corporate Finance and Davy Corporate Finance ran a joint sales process to sell Siteserv which was in severe financial difficulties and was unable to service or pay back its loans to IBRC. The sale process was initiated by Siteserv and overseen by a subcommittee of the Siteserv Board. The sale process involved two stages and IBRC was briefed after each stage. The Board of Siteserv, as advised by KPMG Corporate Finance and Davy Corporate Finance, recommended the successful bid as representing the best return for IBRC. The Board of the bank are satisfied that this is the case”

So why were the normal rules of capitalism in a debt situation turned on their head with shareholders keeping value, whilst secured lenders wrote off €100m-plus? After all, shareholders in Anglo lost everything in 2009 when secured creditors were repaid 100%. During the week we saw an elderly couple evicted from their €2m home because they didn’t repay the mortgage. Both events are tragic for the shareholders and homeowner but those are the rules of capitalism. Yet the State, and the State owns Anglo 100%, has written off €100m-plus at a commercial business whilst allowing its shareholders to walk away with €5m. And when held to account on the matter, the defence is as set out above.

The opening paragraph above is tongue-in-cheek, I don’t expect we’ll hear much negative coverage of Denis O’Brien in tomorrow’s Sunday Independent at all, following the boardroom drama during the week which saw Gavin O’Reilly resign under terms of a confidential Compromise Agreement and which saw an unanimously-supported new CEO, Vincent Crowley appointed. I could be wrong of course and maybe the Sunday Independent will continue to pull at the Siteserv loose thread as obviously Minister Noonan has given a non-answer above and questions still remain about the sale transaction, and the curiosity of the shareholders not being 100% wiped out.

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“My Department received 6 applications by post and 18 applications via e-mail. The closing date for expressions of interest was 6 March 2012. John Mulcahy was appointed to the NAMA Board on 7 March 2012.” Minister for Finance Michael Noonan responding to a parliamentary question this week.

Although we’re still waiting for the outcome of the two investigations into how the Department of Finance managed to mis-state our debt position by €3.6bn, an error that was publicly revealed at the start of November 2011, at least we have received confirmation during the week that the Department’s own human resources department is world class, at least in respect of the speed with which it makes recruitment decisions.

You’ll recall that on 23rd February, 2012 the Department of Finance put on its website what must have been the most unappetising job vacancies you’ll ever see; there were two vacancies on the NAMA board arising from the departure of Peter Stewart in October 2011 and of Michael Connolly the following month. Expressions of interest were invited by the Department with a closing date for the receipt of applications of 6th March 2012. At midday on 7th March, 2012 Minister Noonan announced that one of the vacancies was filled by NAMA’s own head of asset management, John Mulcahy.

So how many applications did the Department of Finance receive for the two vacancies? Thanks to a parliamentary question from Sinn Fein’s finance spokesperson, Pearse Doherty we got an answer on Tuesday last:

“My Department received 6 applications by post and 18 applications via e-mail. The closing date for expressions of interest was 6 March 2012. John Mulcahy was appointed to the NAMA Board on 7 March 2012.”

So the Department’s own human resources department was able to assess the 24 applications lickety-split after the closing date for receipt of expressions of interest. We don’t know how many interviews were held or when, during the two week application  period, the applications were received, but on the face of it, the Department acted with haste which supports accusations that official positions in Ireland are filled, not on the basis of an open appointments process but in a way which is pre-determined.

Now this is not to criticise John Mulcahy who was doing the country proud yesterday in a London court and is NAMA’s most senior property man, but the speed with which the appointment was announced after the closing date will be used by critics to claim that nothing has changed in this country, that it is the same names that crop up time-after-time on state boards, and that it remains the case that it is “who you know, not what you know” that still counts with our government.

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