When you drill down to the basics of this story, it is less funny and interesting than it first looks.
NAMA has had receivers, Gearoid Costelloe of Grant Thornton appointed to a Killarney property still legally owned by a religious trust called “St Brendan’s Trust”. It is a trust owned by none other than the Sisters of Mercy under the overall auspices of the Diocese of Kerry. The property in question is a 17 acre site near Rock Road in Killarney.
So, there you have it : NAMA, run by Brendan McDonagh, the Kerry native who still deals in “millens and billens” instead of “millions and billions” appointing receivers to God’s own alleged representatives – having been taught by them, very “alleged” – and worse, appointing receivers to a trust bearing his own baptism name.
The story is less interesting though, because the trust actually sold the land to a property developer, Galvin Developments in 2007. Galvin is a long-established company dating from the mid 1920s according it its website and is still controlled by the Galvin family and its current directors are Jeremiah, Colm and Donnacha Galvin. The company had intended to develop the 17-acre site into a nursing home, jointly with Mowlam Healthcare. The downturn in the economy and withdrawal of tax breaks put a halt to that development.
Galvin Developments failed to register the transfer of the land in 2007, and the religious trust remains the legal owner, and that is why the receiver was appointed to the trust, which is really just an administrative appointment because the land has commercially been transferred to Galvin.
The Irish Times, “the story of why” reports the story here today.
UPDATE: 6th April, 2013. The Irish Times carries a follow-up today which sheds more light on the 2006 transaction where the Sisters of Mercy sold the 17 acre plot to Galvin. The sale price was €30m, but the Sisters only received €18m and have been trying to recover the outstanding €12m since the agreement – it remains outstanding today. Galvin never registered the transfer and thereby avoided stamp duty, so it seems the Revenue Commissioners have also got an interest in this transaction. The project was partly developed and is being marketed by Mowlam Healthcare today here. Galvin is said to owe €43m in respect of the development, so €18m for the land and €25m for the construction presumably which seems a lot. It also seems the nuns’ trust, “St Brendan’s Trust” was a little naive in “accepting” AIB mortgages on the property whilst it was still registered to the trust, and the Irish Times is today claiming that this “effectively” meant the trust was guaranteeing the loans. So the Sisters have come out of this with a net of just over €1m an acre but there is a contingent liability if the Irish Times reporting is correct.