Archive for the ‘Northern Ireland’ Category


They’re still celebrating on Ormeau Avenue in Belfast after winning a BAFTA on Sunday for their powerful documentary “Shame of the Catholic Church” broadcast under the “This World” strand, this comes after winning an IFTA last year for the BBC Spotlight special on tracing the Quinn family assets around the globe. The Spotlight on the horse meat scandal this year was probably the best investigation that we saw, and a couple of weeks later, the Department of Agriculture withdrew a license from one of the meat companies featured.Tonight promises us another cracker – this time on the personal debt crisis and debt forgiveness. It will be on at 22.35 this evening for 30 minutes on BBC Northern Ireland. You should then be able to catch it on BBC iPlayer but if you’re watching online from the Republic or outside the UK, you will need fool the BBC into thinking your PC is in the UK, and you can do that with so-called proxy masking software, this one is recommended for general use.

The programme was previewed on Northern Ireland radio this morning, and it seems we are set to learn from presenter Ciaran Tracey that in Northern Ireland, which has a population of just 1.8m people, a total of GBP 1.7m (€2bn) was written off as a result of bankruptcies in 2011 and 2012. Yes, €2bn. Pro-rataed for our 4.7m population that would equate to €5.2bn over two years and remember we have a huge pent-up demand for resolving our personal debts. It seems that some 3,200 people in Northern Ireland filed for bankruptcy last year. Minister for Justice, Alan Shatter thinks that we will have 3,000 bankruptcies in the first 12 months of operation of the new Personal Insolvency Act from July this year.

The programme will also feature contributions from Nick Leeson, new recruit to debt advice company, GDP and best known to us for the thankless task of managing Galway United Football Club, though the rest of the world might know him better as the man who brought down Barings Bank in the 1990s. Nick’s company is helping the indebted deal with creditors, mostly banks, and it seems that debt deals are being done.

Almost as a footnote, despite its relevance to NAMA, the programme also has a contribution from the Northern Ireland Minister for Finance and Personnel, Sammy Wilson who criticizes the banks, Ulster Bank in particular, for not lending to businesses and he calls for a bad bank, a NAMA in fact in his own words, to be established to acquire Ulster Bank’s bad loans, so that the bank can return to its core business of lending.

It promises to be a cracker. 22.35 BBC Northern Ireland.

UPDATE: 15th May, 2013. The programme is available in two parts on Youtube – Part 1 here and Part 2 here.


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Secret of the Week


You might recall the commitment given by This Lot when they came to power to make public administration more transparent? Here is a selection – from the past seven days alone – of matters involving your money that This Lot weren’t referring to when they promised more transparency:

The Black Book which is the Central Bank’s disaster planning manual, first published in 2001, it was updated in 2007 after the run on Northern Rock in the UK. Minister Noonan said “The question of releasing the document is therefore a matter for the Central Bank of Ireland in the first instance. The document was shared with the Department of Finance on the understanding it would be treated in strictest confidence given the nature of the matters treated in the document. I do not therefore propose to provide a copy of the document”

The Collateral Posting Agreement which forces NAMA to hand over €1.15bn of cash to the NTMA as security against derivative contracts. Minister Noonan said it “contains commercially sensitive information and is therefore not suitable for publication”

NAMA & NABCO: The terms under which NAMA is providing social housing – which we have paid for through funding NAMA – to NABCO. Minister Noonan said “I am advised by NAMA that the particulars of the lease agreement, including term length and rental fee, have been negotiated in confidence with NABCO as a commercial counterparty and it would not be appropriate for the Agency to publish such details as it could prejudice the conduct or outcome of NAMA’s negotiations with other commercial counterparties”

AIB debt forgiveness: The debt forgiveness given to two large Irish media groups, Thomas Crosbie Holdings and Independent News and Media by state-owed AIB and 15% state-owned Bank of Ireland. Minister Noonan said due to “data protection rules and customer confidentiality the banks are not in a position to discuss details of individual customer circumstances”

Index of the Week


Yesterday, the consumer sentiment index jointly produced by KBC bank and the ESRI was published. This has to be one of the most volatile monthly indices you’ll ever see – you’ll see its history as far back as 1996, here; its peak was reached in 2000 at 130-odd, and throughout the downturn since 2007, it has been all over the place. It stands at 58.9 in April 2013, down from 60.0 in March but it was as low as 49.8 in December 2012 and 70.0 in August 2012.

Quote of the Week

“As I explained to the cardinal and members of the church, my book is the Constitution and the Constitution is determined by the people. That’s the people’s book and we live in a republic and I have a duty and responsibility, as head of government, to legislate in respect of what the people’s wishes are. Those wishes have been determined and set out by the Supreme Court, which determines what the Constitution actually means” An Taoiseach Enda Kenny responding to further rumblings in the Catholic hierarchy which has set itself in fierce opposition to proposals to introduce legislation clarifying the position on abortion

“Catholics understand therefore, that a vote for Sinn Fein is a vote for the weakening of the institution of marriage and the right to life for all the unborn” Fermanagh priest and columnist, Fr Owen Gorman writing in the monthly Catholic “Alive” magazine. Aghadrumsee priest Father Owen Gorman was writing in his column in the April 2013 issue of the magazine and suggesting that Catholics have started to support the traditionally-Protestant DUP, on religious grounds.

Yes, the abortion debate still hogs the headlines, and this was the week we found out that anyone involved in procuring or effecting an abortion was automatically excommunicated from the Catholic Church under Canon law 1398. Actually, we didn’t find this out at all because the old media couldn’t be bothered to develop the excommunication threat – that was mooted (and then dismissed) – to legislators who would vote in favour of the new Protection of Life during Pregnancy Bill.

Elsewhere, in this week’s noteworthy quotables:

“The traditional barriers of authority and hierarchy are lowered and you need to be able to manage accordingly” Guide issued by Fine Gael to its TDs and senators, helping them deal with the challenges of new media

Scourge of the Week

“When asked what the primary factors would be to motivate them to emigrate, the vast majority of respondents stated that they would emigrate primarily because of a lack of employment opportunities at home or in the expectation that they would have better job prospects abroad” Time to Go? emigration study by National Youth Council

This week, the National Youth Council of Ireland launched what it called a qualitative study of Irish emigrants, focusing on the young up to age 30. The 100-page report is worth a read, it is highly anecdotal in providing original source comments from actual immigrants, but at its launch on Thursday, the NYCI made clear that although there may be pull factors which make emigration attractive, the “determining factor” was lack of employment opportunities here at home. So, emigration may indeed be what finance minister Michael Noonan calls a “lifestyle choice” but this study shows that the “lifestyle choice” hinges on employment, and in a State where there are 430,000 on the Live Register and 295,000 unemployed equating to a standardized unemployment rate of 14.0%, there is really no free choice at all.

Goal-hanging politician of the Week


“You never once contacted our school, Griffeen Valley, in relation to our forthcoming school extension..neither did anybody from our board of management or staff contact you or seek your assistance in relation to the extension. You had absolutely nothing to do with this development, and yet you distribute a leaflet in the Lucan area claiming to have ‘initiated, led and delivered’ this extension..This is nothing but gross cynical opportunism on your behalf, which I find objectionable and depressing” Principal of the Grifeen Valley Educate Together national school, Tomas O’Dulaing speaking to the “Lucan Gazettes” 1st May 2013

Dublin Mid West Fine Gael back bench TD, Derek Keating came in for some criticism from a school principal in Lucan who resented credit being claimed on a political leaflet by Deputy Keating, for an extension to the school. The criticism made front page news of the “Lucan Gazettes” newspaper, which is in fact what they call a “free sheet”, in that it is free to readers and it is advertisers that fund it. Perhaps to spare his boss’s blushes, Deputy Keating’s assistant, Tommy Morris, was caught on camera – pictured here – removing copies of the newspaper from local outlets. It is now reported that some 3,000 copies were taken and the matter has been reported to the Gardai.

On their website, “Lucan Gazettes” which is part of the Dublin Gazettes group say they have 169,000 readers a week. Would that be a week when Tommy Morris isn’t active?


Job interview of the Week


Okay, this interview took place on 23rd April 2013, when 74-year old sports commentator and noted Fine Gael supporter, Bill Herlihy was “grilled” by the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Environment, Culture and the Gaeltacht about what he could bring to the role he recently won as chairman of the Irish Film Board. You will find the full transcript of the hearing here from page 19 but it will depress you; the hearing commenced with Bill read out an impressive pre-prepared statement. A Laois-Offaly FG TD asked what the IFB was going to do for Laois-Offaly, ditto for a Laois-Offaly FF TD, a Roscommon Independent TD asked about the decline in cinemas to the point there is only one cinema in county Roscommon, an Independent senator and a Labour TD promoted their own artistic endeavours and who knows, might be asking the IFB for a handout imminently and SF didn’t even ask a single question. After what appears to have been about five minutes of exchanges, the FG deputy chair of the committee concluded by saying “That concludes our consideration of the topic and I thank Mr. O’Herlihy for coming before us and giving us the benefit of his wisdom. I propose we notify the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Deputy Deenihan, that we have completed our discussion with the chairperson designate of the Irish Film Board, Mr. Bill O’Herlihy. Is this agreed? Agreed.I will conclude with the words of a well known-television sports commentator, “Okey do-key””

Dontcha just love this country.

Poem of the Week


In a week.
A crack.
Was selling the gaffe.
Not quite breaking even.
A big improvement.
On borrowing to bail.
Then last week.
A bidding war.
It’s war. Baby.
Suddenly up 70.000.
All dandy.
Hands in air.
Capitalist roller-coaster.
Enter the
ir  surveyor.
A crack.
Crack fluency required.
Enter my surveyor.
We’re looking at 10,000.
But crack ‘s now a sobering force,
The purveyor of madness and rage?
So into equity’s duplicity.
Rode my 70,000
Plus 800.
The cost of.
My lesson in crack.

With Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney lying doggo during these historical times, it has fallen to others to chronicle economic challenges through poetry. We’ve had contributions on here before from sf ca writer. This week, the PoliticalWorld blog has launched its first foray into traditional publishing when it published a real-paper-book anthology of poems by Kevin Barrington entitled “I love the Internet” available for download here. Poems deal with the usual agonies of the human spirit but set against the unusual reality of current economic times such as the boom in property prices and then negative equity in the above piece “Crack”. Richly illustrated, worth a look.

Auctioneer marketing tip of the Week

Whatever about prices, there appears to be some consensus amongst estate agents that the commercial property market is humming with a reasonable flow of transactions at present, though residential property transactions have fallen off after the rush to meet the deadline of 31st December last when mortgage relief for first time buyers was curtailed. Corporate advertising by Irish estate agents and property companies seems to have intensified, but can any of them compete with the above Californian estate agent who has adopted a novel approach to self promotion.

What next? Maybe Messrs Hollis, FitzGerald, Nugent, Moran, Potterton, Meagher, O’Reilly and Hillyer might produce a barbershop chorus.

Baby pipeline of the Week


We found out this week the countries from which we are adopting children. In 2012, a total of 117 children were adopted from overseas. Russia has replaced Vietnam at the top spot of source countries for children adopted into Ireland, though that position was placed in jeopardy earlier this year when the Oireachtas joint committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade threatened to create a so-called “Magnitsky List” for Russia which would impose sanctions on those people suspected of being involved in the death of Moscow lawyer and accountant, Sergei Magnitsky who died in prison after his arrest when he was investigating state-level tax fraud. The Russians responded with their ambassador to Ireland threatening to close down the Russian baby pipelines if Ireland pressed ahead with sanctions. Just over a week ago, our fearless committee backed down and merely called for an investigation into the horrible death of Sergei. Elsewhere on the list, Ethiopia is number two, but you had better get in quick there before Madonna snaps them all up. On a serious note, adoption in Ireland is just so difficult that only 200 Irish children are adopted a year despite some 6,000 being in care. Last year’s Childrens Referendum may herald an increase by removing obstacles to adopting children of married couples, but for the time being, the foreign baby pipeline just serves to highlight our domestic failure to facilitate adoption.

Graphic of the Week


This was the week when the Central Bank of Ireland’s Fiona Muldoon – front-runner to take over Matthew Elderfield’s role following his resignation – unveiled what is a described as a “Pilot Scheme for Consumer Multi-Debt Restructuring”. It seems like a solo-run by the Central Bank, uncoordinated with the new personal insolvency schemes that are supposed to be available from the end of June 2013. And to cynics, it appears like a last-ditch attempt to minimize mortgage impairment losses at the Irish banks to the greatest possible extent. The Central Bank scheme envisages there being an independent “service provider” to manage whatever agreement is sought or entered into by borrowers, and feathers were ruffled when it was suggested the Central Bank might seek to engage a UK company, rather than one of the burgeoning bodies in Ireland providing debt management services.

A feature of the pilot brochure was a decision waterfall which illustrated how the indebted might deal with their debts. Lengthening terms and lowering interest rates are explored to the greatest degree feasible before there is any hint of a debt write-down.

 Book of the Week


Quite a number of people have asked when we should finally find out the names and dealings of the 60-70 people whose offshore account details were recently leaked, as part of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists investigation. The 60-70 Irish had companies created in the British Virgin Islands, a jurisdiction which hides company control and dealings from prying eyes. In the UK, the BBC and the Guardian newspaper apparently received the master-file of the leaked details, and the BBC is nudged every so often to see when it will make available the Irish details.

Meanwhile the ICIJ has published an e-book (it’s free!) which brings together reports from various countries showing the impact of the leaked details. It is a fascinating read and although there’s practically no Irish revelation, the compendium of reports show how people have hidden their wealth and dealings, have suddenly become unstuck.

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Last month, NAMA moved against the Kennedy Group, the (London)Derry developer whose assets included the Ramada Portrush Hotel. The initial foreclosure was followed last week with news that NAMA succeeded in having seven additional properties placed in receivership. This afternoon, we learn that the Kennedys are suing NAMA in Belfast’s High Court. Details of the application are expected shortly and will be added as an update here.

Brothers, Alistair Kennedy and Christopher Kennedy (Chris Kennedy) are suing National Asset Loan Management Limited and IBRC; IBRC is now in special liquidation. The case reference is 13/042914 and the case is scheduled for mention next week, 14th May 2013.

We don’t know the details of the application or the remedy sought – but we will soon. But last month, Alistair Kennedy gave an interview to the BBC in the aftermath of the foreclosing on the Ramada Portrush Hotel loan, and he was not at all happy with NAMA’s actions, and seemed to believe that NAMA had acted hastily.

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From Belfast this morning, we learn that Botanic Inns the company which operates 14 pubs in Belfast and employs 600 people has been placed in administration, with KPMG appointed as administrator. A fortnight ago, it was reported that NAMA developer John Miskelly was pursuing a winding-up order against the group after rent arrears arose on the pub chain’s head office building on Ormeau Road in Belfast. At the time, it was hoped that the recovery action would only affect the head office of the group, but this morning, KPMG has been appointed to administer the chain of pubs, restaurants and hotels whilst a buyer is sought. NAMA is a landlord to five of the 14 pubs, after NAMA foreclosed on loans in 2011 owed by Clare developers, Sean Lyne and Noel Connellan. In addition to the pubs, Botanic operates two hotels – Madison’s and Parador – and two off licences.

The news today follows a report in the Belfast Telegraph this morning claiming that three pubs a week were now closing in Northern Ireland, a jurisdiction that has suffered a greater economic downturn than the Republic, on a GDP-type basis – its unemployment rate has also risen to 8.5%, though that is considerably less than the 14.0% unemployed in the Republic. At present, all the Botanic outlets continue to trade as normal whilst the administrator seeks a buyer.

It is understood that NAMA showed some degree of flexibility on the terms attaching to the five outlets under its control. Ulster Bank is understood to be the other major lender to properties from which the group operates. Again, it’s business as usual for customers of the group, but there will be deep concern that not all of the outlets will survive.

UPDATE: 7th May, 2013. The Ulster pub trade body, Pubs of Ulster has issued a statement in which its chief executive, Colin Neill commented “on the latest news about the appointment of a joint Administrator to Botanic Inns Limited and its parent company Kurkova:

This is disappointing news for Botanic Inns Limited and its parent company Kurkova.
Botanic Inns is an iconic brand for the city of Belfast and right across Northern Ireland. It has always had the highest reputation and regarded as one of our blue chip companies and we must do all we can to help support it at this time.

We welcome the Administrators intention that the venues will continue to trade as normal and that regulars and visitors to the Botanic Inns pubs and bars should be reassured that they are open for business.

It is no secret that factors have accumulated over the past year which has made it a very tough trading environment right across the industry. The revenue reserves normally built up by publicans during the Christmas season have suffered in the current trading environment and the negative impact of the recent flag protests compounding the problems faced by the trade.

At the end of 2012 the number of pub licences in Northern Ireland numbered 1252, down from 1481 in the year ending 2007. This can be put down to a number of factors such as the change in social habits, property revaluations, non-renewal of licenses and the impact that supermarket pricing is having. The offer from our pubs and bars here is still of the highest quality and remains a valuable asset.

It is important to reiterate that the pub industry is a key economic driver and its health and vitality are crucial in the sustainability of the economy as a whole. It must be protected.”

UPDATE (1): May 14th, 2013. The BBC reports that six of the pub businesses in administration have been sold to “the Horatio Group”, which is controlled by Stephen Magorrian, the managing director of Botanic Inns up to last week. There is no word about the freeholds in the pubs whose businesses have been sold – “the Botanic Inn, Madisons Hotel, the Kings Head, the Northern Whig, the Elms and the Fly” according to the BBC. 300 jobs are understood to have been saved. There are seven other businesses being run by the administrator, also employing 300 people, and the administrator expresses confidence that these businesses can be sold also.

UPDATE  (2): May 14th, 2013. Industry group, Pubs of Ulster has issued a statement reacting to this morning’s news  in which Colin Neill, chief executive of Pubs of Ulster said “We are pleased to hear the news from the administrator that a buyer has been found for at least 6 of the pubs, including the iconic Bot, previously owned by the Botanic Group.

It is great news that around 300 jobs have been saved and some of Belfast’s most high profile pubs will continue to trade. This is not only good for the industry but vital for the economy here in Northern Ireland.

We are optimistic that the remaining pubs and jobs will be saved in the not too distant future given the quality of the outlets.

Although this is a stark reminder of the challenges faced by the industry in the current environment, we are working with the government and other stakeholders to protect one of the most important economic generators for Northern Ireland.”

UPDATE (3): 14th May 2013. It seems NAMA is the hero of the day, having renegotiated terms on its six properties which had previously been operated by Botanic Inns. The BBC reports that NAMA last negotiated the new terms with Horatio Taverns Limited, a company incorporated in February 2013 whose directors are Stephen Magorrian, his wife Laura Magorrian and Lorraine Ormsby. Apparently it is Ulster Bank which has failed to renegotiate terms, at least for the time being. Pricewaterhouse Coopers appears to have acted for Horatio in the successful negotiations with NAMA, and also in the unsuccessful negotiations with Ulster Bank.

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“For the avoidance of doubt our client was employed as Area Manager during his tenure at Anglo and did not have any part in the board structure of the organization nor did he have any role in the decision making process…Not only have you sought to denigrate our client’s reputation by incorrectly exaggerating his position at Anglo, you have done so with the deliberate and apparent intention of implying that he is unfit to work as an insolvency practitioner” [ENDS] Letter received on here by email on 1st May 2013 from Northern Ireland solicitors, Johnsons. The letter refers to their client, Neil Adair who was described on here as a former boss of Anglo in Northern Ireland after his tenure from 1995-2005, as head of Anglo’s operation in Northern Ireland, a period which ended with Anglo building up a loan book of almost €1.5bn.

Well, this has been a nerve-fraying week here at NWL with the receipt of its first “solicitors letter”, or rather email. The debut “letter”, the Hayes Solicitors email on Tuesday evening was, to an extent, expected. It sought an undertaking that detailed information, reported in general terms on here the previous day, would not be published. The troublesome information formed part of an affidavit filed in the High Court on Monday and apparently showed that NAMA had provided third parties with details of loans, names, par values and NAMA acquisition values. It is disappointing that NAMA itself didn’t seek such an undertaking, especially as it had been asked for comment on the information the previous day. The undertaking sought by NAMA’s solicitors was readily given, though a complaint was sent to the Data Protection Commissioner with the troublesome information attached. And that is where that matter lies. But like buses, solicitors letters this week arrived in twos.

The second letter was not at all expected, and forms the subject of this weekend’s media blogpost. Firstly, here is the letter.


For those of you unfamiliar with Johnsons, it is a Belfast firm originally, and has developed a considerable reputation in the area of defamation law. Its crown jewel, is solicitor Paul Tweed, pictured below, who has been the figurehead of the firm in a string of defamation actions.


Paul has represented former TD Frank Fahey who won a “six figure sum” against the Daily Mail last year; he’s represented Louis Walsh and won a €500,000 libel claim against the Sun newspaper last year; he even won a case against Ryanair after it was unkind to Chris de Burgh’s daughter. This year, Paul “won” a €50 donation from Tweeter, Kevin Barrington to the (still) Poor Clares and an apology after “a series of tweets” relating to entrepreneur and political activist, Declan Ganley. Most recently, Paul has been representing Paddy McKillen who is on the warpath trying to find out who at IBRC has allegedly leaked details of his loans. Paul has even penned a book on defamation, and Paul is reported to be one the people behind this website which offers a “take down” service to clients to remove “inaccurate or defamatory material”


Paul even finds time to blog on his own website www.paultweed.com.

So, imagine the shock on here, when an email from Johnsons was opened to reveal the letter above, signed simply by “Johnsons” but with a letter reference beginning “PT” – could it be the famous Paul himself who penned it? Possibly not, would Paul go to the trouble of drafting a definition of  “the Website” in the letter, and then not make a single further reference to “the Website” and would Bangor-man, Paul really address a letter to “Dublin, Ireland” which might be considered un-PC in some quarters.

The main subject of the letter was a relatively straightforward blog-post here titled “Anglo boss reinvents himself as insolvency practitioner” which reported that a NAMAed developer and former boss of Anglo Irish Bank in Belfast, Neil Adair – pictured here – was now working as an insolvency practitioner. A search of this blog indicates that there have been five previous blogposts about PBN, not many on a blog which has generated 2,600 blogposts, considering PBN is one of NAMA’s biggest developers in Northern Ireland and Neil had a prominent role in Anglo in Northern Ireland up to 2005 and his co-founder at PBN, Patrick Kearney is reported to be one of the so-called “Maple 10” which was the name given to the group of 10 of Anglo’s customers who accepted loans to buy Sean Quinn’s shares in Anglo.

In the original blogpost, there was a single sentence incorrect statement about Neil being part of Maple 10; that blogpost was posted on Tueday at 12:19 and was corrected here on Tuesday at 18:13 or thereabouts, and not at the behest of Neil Adair or any solicitor, or indeed anyone making a complaint at all. When a mistake is made, it is important to rectify that as sincerely and speedily as possible. Johnsons’s letter was sent at 16:46 on Wednesday and the clarification and apology blogpost was posted here at 17:38. So, a day after the “Maple 10” mistake was rectified, an apology was sought and, as there is no shortage of apologies in the old media, an apology was given in the format used in the recent Irish Times apology to Ronan King following an article by Colm Keena; a fulsome apology was duly provided to Neil Adair as to the Maple 10 error made in the original blogpost.

However, the letter from Johnsons goes much, much further than pointing out an error – albeit one that that had been previously corrected – and seeking an apology; the letter claims that Neil Adair had no decision making role at Anglo. It goes on to state there had been a “deliberate and apparent intention” on here to cause damage to Neil. This is complete and utter rubbish.

As for Neil’s role in Anglo, on his own biography on his employer’s, PJG’s, website, it is stated about Neil, that he “more recently headed up the Northern Ireland operation of a Business Bank” Presumably the “Business Bank” is Anglo, but regardless, there is a plethora of headlines in the old media characterizing Neil’s leading role – for example here and here and here.  And that is aside from underlying reporting, that by 2006, Anglo in Northern Ireland had built up a loan book of €1.5bn, with Neil working with Anglo from 1995-2005. But despite this, the general interpretation of the Johnsons’s letter is that Neil had “no role in the decision making process” at the Northern Ireland Anglo operation. And under threat of “the considerable sum of damages to which he [Neil] is arguably entitled”, there is a demand to remove the entire blogpost.

As for the remainder of the original blogpost, there is no specific challenge by Johnsons to the facts of any claim made. PBN Property Limited recently filed its accounts available here. The accounts are qualified; this is the extract of what the auditors, Maneely McCann say:


PBN Property Limited’s accounts show that the company is balance sheet insolvent, that is, where its liabilities exceed its assets by GBP 4,041,185. This is the balance sheet:


So, the original blogpost, as corrected on Tuesday, is not being taken down. It reports on a man characterized as the boss of Anglo in Northern Ireland for a decade; Anglo is a bank which has cost us across all its operations in all jurisdictions a €29bn bailout; Neil is a man now working as as an insolvency practitioner with a firm offering its services in the UK “and overseas” with Neil’s biography on his website saying he “has substantial experience of working with financially stressed companies in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland” and he is at the helm of one of NAMA’s biggest borrowers in Northern Ireland though he appears to have resigned a directorship in March 2013, and one of the companies in his group, which confirms it is a NAMA borrower, has recently filed auditor-qualified accounts which show the company is balance-sheet insolvent.

This is the mainstay type of reporting for which this blog was established.

And Johnsons Solicitors demand the permanent takedown of the article.

As for some of the details in the letter from Johnsons, the NWL Jagdip Singh has never had an association with Talbot Street in Dublin, Ireland a street in the capital well-known for its zombified heroin addicts; there’s a debt-addicted media company down there somewhere too. A little internet research indicates that the Talbot Street address may have been pulled by Johnsons from the bottom of this website, where a number of people air their views on a NWL blogpost. “Jagdip” is deliberately non-gender specific and, as the blog is anonymously authored, non-cardinal specific too, so the “Dear Sir” is presumptuous on the part of Johnsons, as are other “understandings”.

Having said that, this blog has a solemn duty of care to ensure blogposts contain accurate information – and, in that regard, the amount of fact-checking and hyper-linking to sources on here is backbreaking. But, where a mistake occurs, the rectifying response needs to be swift and sincere and, as for the “Maple 10” error, that is exactly how it was responded to.

The reaction of the blog’s audience to the manner in which the NAMA injunction threat earlier in the week was dealt with, was universally positive, with many, many messages of support, a few donations with messages like “chin up!” and general and specific offers of assistance; however in respect of the second legal letter this week, I know that some of you will be uneasy about the approach taken above, but if this blog is to have a future, it needs to be able to report, in a non-airbrushed fashion, on exactly the subjects such as formed the basis for the blogpost here this week.

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In a blogpost on here on Tuesday, it was stated that Neil Adair, along with another founder of PBN  Property, Patrick Kearney were part of the so-called Maple 10 or Anglo Golden Circle. This is untrue and was corrected on Tuesday shortly after the blogpost was published. In fact, only Patrick Kearney was a member of the Maple 10 as reported by Simon Carswell in the Irish Times in 2011. The blog apologises to Neil and regrets the error.

With respect to Neil’s tenure at Anglo Irish Bank in Northern Ireland, it was stated on here “Neil Adair is the former boss of Anglo in Northern Ireland”. This statement is based on several sources.

The Sunday Business Post referred to Neil in the title of an article – not available online without subscription –  “Former Anglo boss’s company owes €370m”.

The Belfast Telegraph has referred to Neil as “a former head of Anglo Irish Bank in Northern Ireland”.

The BBC has referred to Neil as “the former manager of Anglo’s operation in Northern Ireland”.

The BBC has previously reported “It was 1995 when Anglo Irish, which was founded in the Irish Republic in 1964, first took an interest in Northern Ireland. In 2004, Business Eye magazine reported how its chief executive Sean Fitzpatrick, a name now synonymous with Anglo’s collapse, was in Belfast at a business dinner when he bumped into Neil Adair, a fellow chartered accountant. The pair became friendly and not long afterwards, Mr Adair was asked to set up Anglo’s first operation in the northern part of the island. Its apparent success was swift and stratospheric. By 2006, the Belfast outlet held a loan book of almost 1.5bn euros. Its costs base was also running at a fraction of standard industry levels. There were boasts in the press about how it did business much more quickly than its rivals, with bureaucracy at a minimum.” Neil left Anglo in 2005 when he co-founded PBN with Patrick Kearney and Brian McConville.

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Three weeks ago, NAMA started moving against a Northern Ireland property developer, the Kennedy Group, with administrators appointed to a range of assets including the Ramada Portrush Hotel. There was an unusual reaction that we aren’t used to on this side of the Border with three DUP politicians, Gregory Campbell, Ian Paisley junior and finance minister Sammy Wilson expressing concern about the foreclosures.

This morning, the BBC reports that seven additional properties have placed in receivership at the behest of NAMA. The companies in the group affect and properties are listed below:

ACI Developments Limited – “four parcels of land close to the Junction One centre in Antrim”

Waterside Crescent Limited – “two retail warehouses on Strand Road in Derry”

Kennedy Investments Limited – “adjoining sites on The Crescent in Portstewart which have planning permission to build 24 apartments”

When the foreclosures took place earlier this month, the political outcry seemed to be placated with a prompt NAMA announcement of a €11m investment in a DUP-stronghold in the south-east of Belfast.

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The Nationwide Building Society has this morning published its UK House Price data for  April 2013. The Nationwide tends to be the first of the two UK building societies (the other being the Halifax) to produce house price data each month, it is one of the information sources referenced by NAMA’s Long Term Economic Value Regulation and is the source for the UK Residential key market data at the top of this page.

The Nationwide says that the average price of a UK home is now GBP 165,586 (compared to GBP 164,630 in March 2013 and GBP £162,764 at the end of November 2009 – 30th November, 2009 is the Valuation date chosen by NAMA by reference to which it valued the Current Market Values of assets underpinning NAMA loans).

UK prices are up 0.8% over the past 12 months and are now 11.0% off the peak of GBP £186,044 in October 2007. Interestingly the average house price at the end of April 2013 being GBP £165,586 (or €195,491 at GBP 1 = EUR 1.1806) is 27% above the €154,232 implied by applying the CSO March 2013 index to the PTSB/ESRI peak prices in Ireland.

It should be said that in the UK, the Nationwide Building Society adjusts the actual prices for seasonal factors and reports that prices were “little changed” in 2013 with a seasonally adjusted 0.1% decline. The view on here is that seasonality is irrelevant in the market but views differ.


With the latest release from Nationwide, UK house prices have increased 1.7% since 30th November, 2009, the date chosen by NAMA pursuant to the section 73 of the NAMA Act by reference to which Current Market Values of assets are valued. The NWL Index is now at 777.1 (because only an estimated 20% of NAMA property in the UK is residential and only 29% of NAMA’s property overall is in the UK, small changes in UK residential have a negligible impact on the index) meaning that average prices of NAMA property must increase by a weighted average of 28.7% for NAMA to breakeven on a gross basis.

According to the Nationwide this morning, the outlook for 2013 is uncertain but recent developments in the provision of credit for first time buyers and other initiatives may lift activity slightly,

“The outlook for the housing market is unusually uncertain at present, in part because the prospects for the wider economy are unclear, but also as the impact of a number of policy initiatives is hard to gauge”

On 20th March 2013, the UK’s independent Office for Budget Responsibility published its latest fiscal outlook which forecasts GDP for 2013-2017 at 0.6%, 1.8%, 2.3%, 2.7% and 2.8% (but as with all economic forecasts in the long term, all forecasters forecast a peachy outlook!). Deficit:GDP is forecast for 2013-2017 as 6.8%, 6.0%, 5.2%, 3.5% and 2.3%. Debt:GDP is forecast in 2013-2017 at 94.9%, 98.6%, 100.8%, 100.8% and 99.4%. Inflation is forecast for 2013-2017 at 2.8%, 2.4%, 2.1%, 2.0% and 2.0%. It expects residential prices to increase 0.9%, 1.9%. 3.6%, 4.0% and 4.0% in 2013-2017 and commercial property to change -0.1%, 2.6%, 3.6%, 3.8% and 3.4%.

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The recent PBN Property Limited report and accounts revealed that one of the founders, Neil Adair had resigned in March 2013. PBN Property is a Northern Ireland property company but it may be known to you on this side of the Border for two reasons – one of its founders, Neil Adair is the former boss of Anglo in Northern Ireland and secondly, [CORRECTION] one of Neil’s co-founders at PBN, Patrick Kearney was one of the Maple 10 or Anglo Golden Circle who clubbed together to buy Sean Quinn’s stake in Anglo using loans advanced by Anglo. “PBN” is derived from the initials of the first names of the founders, Neil, Patrick and the third founder Brian McConville. It was founded in 2005 and is now a NAMAed company.

We see that 51-year old Neil – pictured here – is getting more involved with a Northern Irish firm of insolvency practitioners called “PJG Recovery”. His biography on the firm’s website says Neil “has substantial experience of working with financially stressed companies in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland and is an expert in business turnaround and reconstruction involving both formal and informal insolvency and recovery procedures” [ENDS]

Neil has been working with PJG on a part time basis for two years, but it seems his activities at the company are being ramped up.The recently-published report and accounts for PBN for year ended June 2012, show the company is balance sheet insolvent to the tune of GBP 4m, and there are question marks over the GBP 162m valuation of its property holdings with the auditors giving a qualified opinion on the accounts because of this. An ideal candidate for “business turnaround and reconstruction” perhaps?!

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The Taggart brothers, Michael and John are borrowers in NAMA and indeed earlier this year, one of their companies sued NAMA in Dublin’s High Court. But the Taggarts from (London)Derry also had substantial borrowings at Ulster Bank and since 2008, Ulster Bank has been pursuing the brothers for hundreds of millions. The Taggarts hit back accusing Ulster Bank of misrepresentation, material non-disclosure and breach of contract. Last week in Belfast, in the face of what the Judge called “trenchant opposition by the bank”, the Judge ordered that three actions be combined together for a forthcoming hearing. Ulster Bank is pursuing two personal guarantees of GBP 9.3m (€11m) and the Taggarts are claiming that Ulster Bank’s behavior destroyed their business.

The Taggarts developed property in Northern Ireland, Britain, Luxembourg and also in the Republic. It is a €21m development site in Kinsealy, north Dublin, in relation to which Ulster Bank is pursuing the guarantees. The Taggarts are claiming the bank destroyed their business and about 500 jobs without proper cause. It is a bad-tempered fight and the Judge in Belfast’s High Court last week, Mr Justice Bernard McCloskey, referred to the frequent “skirmishes” in his court as the three matters at issue have progressed. There appears to have been issues with the banks disclosing documents to the Taggarts.

We are set to have a full hearing in May or June 2013 where the issues will be aired. Other bank borrowers, not just those with Ulster Bank, will closely follow the case to see if parallels can be successfully drawn with their own circumstances.

The judgment last week which ordered the three matters to be heard together is here.

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