“Deputy Joe Higgins should note that the site is under the control of NAMA and that, as a consequence, Mr. Murphy does not gain. NAMA gains if there is any gain. NAMA represents the people in trying to get back the moneys that were lost.” Minister for Heath James Reilly in Dail debate on 3rd October, 2012
The controversy over the decision by Minister for Health, James Reilly to bump up a site belonging to his associate at 66,68,70 Dublin Street, Balbriggan, north Dublin to a priority list for the development of a primary care centre, just isn’t going away. The Minister has so far failed to provide credible criteria for his decision and from the reflection of the words and actions of former junior minister Roisin Shortall, there is a sense that the decision stinks to high heavens.
A couple of weeks ago, NAMA refused to confirm if it had discussed the site with Minister Reilly. The site is in NAMA as a result of the borrowings of businessman and developer Seamus Murphy being acquired by the Agency. NAMA cited its obligation to maintain confidentiality pursuant to Sections 99 and 202 of the NAMA Act
In the Dail this week however, Minister Reilly was asked directly by the Sinn Fein finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty if he had met with NAMA about the site, and the response was that yes, Minister Reilly met NAMA in April 2012. The Minister was asked for the nature of the discussions but he did not respond to that aspect of the question. The Minister says that he and his officials discussed “a number of PCC locations” with NAMA “including Balbriggan” but he then confusingly goes on to say “no specific address” was mentioned. It is unlikely that NAMA has myriad properties in Balbriggan!
So now, we have James Reilly having discussions with NAMA prior to his bumping-up of a site – belonging to his associate Seamus Murphy – to a priority list which prompted the resignation of his junior minister amid accusations against Minister Reilly of “stroke politics” and we also have NAMA saying it didn’t provide anyone outside the Agency with details of Seamus Murphy’s borrowings, meaning that when James Reilly claimed that Seamus Murphy would not benefit from the transaction, he could only have known whether the loan on the Balbriggan site was in excess of its sales value from someone other than NAMA, but Minister Reilly says he didn’t discuss the financial aspect of the site with Seamus Murphy. We are unable to judge if the discussion that James Reilly had with NAMA in April 2012 had any impact on NAMA’s intentions with the site, though NAMA is duty-bound to report any attempt to influence its decision on a property to the Gardai – “it is an offence to communicate with NAMA with the intention of influencing the making of a decision in relation to the performance of its functions. If such an attempt were to be made, the Act imposes an obligation on an officer or Board member of NAMA to report it to a member of the Garda Síochána.”
The full parliamentary question and response is here.
Deputy Pearse Doherty: To ask the Minister for Health if he or his representatives have had contact with the National Asset Management Agency in respect of a property at 66, 68,70 Dublin Street, Balbriggan, County Dublin; and if so, the dates and nature of the contact.
Minister for Health, James Reilly: My officials and I met once this year with NAMA on 20 April 2012. Within its commercial remit NAMA advises that it is at all times open to proposals which can contribute to the achievement of broader social and economic objectives. In this context many issues of interest to the health services were discussed. A record of the meeting shows that a number of PCC locations were discussed, including Balbriggan. However, no specific address was mentioned.