We found out from the Irish Independent this week that three judges including a “prominent High Court judge” are amongst those unfortunate clients of Custom House Capital who are set to lose substantial sums of money following the collapse of the Dublin based investment company last year. Separatelym we have known for some time that some judges invested heavily using borrowed money during the property boom in the mid-2000s and indeed the Independent reported last year that “it is understood that a small number [of Irish judges] are to [sic] trying to prevent loans being transferred to NAMA” In addition, there are 166 TDs in the Dail and 60 senators in the Seanad and the Register of interests reveals that several of them own property other than their homes, though the Register does not require politicians to provide details of associated loans. Remember that at INBS and EBS, NAMA acquired most development loans regardless of value, at Anglo the threshold was €5m and at AIB/Bank of Ireland, it was €20m.
So it may well be the case that our law makers and law administrators have loans in NAMA, something which might colour their views on NAMA transparency, property prices, debt forgiveness and a host of other prickly issues. NAMA says it has 1,000 individuals who comprise its 850 debtor connections. How many of them are judges and politicians? Earlier this week, the Sinn Fein finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance Michael Noonan that question, and the exchange is shown in full below. NAMA won’t say how many judges and politicians are amongst its 1,000 debtors, citing section 202 of the NAMA Act which prevents the disclosure of confidential information. But unless the answer is a number which represents a very high proportion of the sets of judges and politicians, it is hard to see how disclosing that say – strictly for the sake of argument – three TDs and two senators are in NAMA, or that two current judges are in the Agency.
Deputy Pearse Doherty: To ask the Minister for Finance of the 1,000 debtors/850 debtor connections controlled by the National Asset Management Agency, if any are currently active judges within the Irish judiciary.
Deputy Pearse Doherty: To ask the Minister for Finance of the 1,000 debtors/850 debtor connections controlled by the National Asset Management Agency, if any are current members of the Oireachtas.
Minister for Finance, Michael Noonan:I propose to answer question 293 and 294 together.
I am informed by NAMA that its debtors include a wide range of occupational groups.
However, NAMA has legal obligations of confidentiality in respect of information relating to NAMA debtors. Section 202 of the National Asset Management Agency Act 2009, which legislation was passed by this House, specifically states that an officer shall not disclose information that he or she knows or ought reasonably to have known is confidential information.