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Terms of Reference don't deal with all issues at IBRC – Adams

9 June, 2015 - by Gerry Adams TD


Sinn Féin Leader Gerry Adams TD has again raised the issue of Blackstone, an American vulture capital group, and its involvement with IBRC in the Dáil.

Speaking during a debate on a Commission of Investigation into IBRC transaction, Teachta Adams said the Taoiseach and the Minister for Finance had met the head of Blackstone, Stephen Schwarzman and his associate Gerry Murphy in November 2011 and that Michael Geoghegan - the Government-appointed chair of NAMA's advisory board - sought to appoint Gerry Murphy from Blackstone to the board.

Had this happened, he said, it would have resulted in someone from Blackstone giving advice to NAMA on the sales of assets whose buyer might be Blackstone itself

He said the conflicts of interest were startling, but that the appointment of Mr. Murphy appeared only to have been abandoned after Sinn Féin drew attention to the matter.

He said the proposed Terms of Reference for the Commission of Investigation did not deal comprehensively with all of the issues it needed to examine. In particular, he criticised the fact that is not any inclusion of an investigation into alleged verbal agreements as part of some of the transactions undertaken by IBRC.

*Below is the full text of Gerry Adams’s speech in the Dáil on the Government Motion on a Commission of Investigation into IBRC.

“A Cheann Comhairle,

It would not have been necessary to establish a Commission of Investigation if the Taoiseach or the Minister for Finance had properly answered questions here in the Dáil.

The taxpayers may also have been saved hundreds of millions of euro of their money, which would have been better spent on health services, tackling poverty or building schools.

Since 2012 Teachta Pearse Doherty, I and others have tabled a range of Parliamentary Questions about IBRC.

The responses from the Minister for Finance were deliberately vague and obstructive. They were opaque.

Some of my questions related to IBRC's hiring of Blackstone, an American vulture capital group.

At that time Blackstone was seeking to buy IBRC's loan book.

This means that IBRC were paying Blackstone for advice on the sale of assets whose buyer might be Blackstone itself!

Any citizen could see the clear conflict of interest at the heart of this arrangement.

Questions about fees paid to advisers were not answered.

But the impression given at that time by the Minister's responses was that he had no difficulty with any of this.

At the time of my questions, the Department of Finance was in weekly contact with IBRC.

The Taoiseach and the Minister for Finance met the head of Blackstone, Stephen Schwarzman and his associate Gerry Murphy in November 2011.

During this period, Michael Geoghegan - the Government-appointed chair of NAMA's advisory board - sought to appoint Gerry Murphy from Blackstone to the board.

Again, had this happened, it would have resulted in someone from Blackstone giving advice to NAMA on the sales of assets whose buyer might be Blackstone itself!

Again, the conflict of interests here are startling, but the appointment of Mr Murphy appears only to have been abandoned after Sinn Féin Parliamentary Questions drew attention to the matter.

But what Minister Noonan failed to answer in 2012 was when he or his Department became aware that IBRC intended to commission Blackstone as an adviser on its loan sales.

Will he tell us now? I doubt it.

Were concerns raised about the very obvious conflicts of interests in Blackstone taking on an advisory role with IBRC when it was also bidding for IBRC loans?

Did the Taoiseach or the Minister for Finance on the back of questions from Sinn Fein in 2012 investigate matters in IBRC?

Does this explain the subsequent appointment of Mr Neil Ryan from the Department of Finance to IBRC?

And finally, why did Neil Ryan leave IBRC and what was the nature of his departure?

There is no need to wait for the conclusions of the Commission of Investigation to get these answers. The Minister could speak up here at any point in this debate or in his concluding remarks and that’s what he should do.

If Minister Noonan or An Taoiseach had answered questions in the proper way in recent months or since 2012, we would not have any need for this Commission. 

While the Taoiseach and the Minister for Finance plead ignorance now - they had the power to do something at the time.

You were being asked to do so by Sinn Féin.

But you did nothing.

What is clear now is that the Government used the parliamentary process to obscure, obstruct and divert rather than explain, inform or account for its actions.

The Taoiseach and Minister Noonan failed to hold IBRC to account and they sought to prevent the Dáil from holding the Government to account.

This behaviour has exposed, once again, the shallowness of Fine Gael’s high-flown rhetoric in 2011 about a “democratic revolution”, a new era of "openness", "transparency" and "accountability".

Like the Irish Water fiasco, Fine Gael and Labour treated the Dáil with complete contempt.

But disturbing information has emerged not least as a result of the work of Teachta Catherine Murphy, who commendable efforts let us all know that Denis O'Brien’s company was not the highest bidder for Siteserv.

It also emerged that that the Minister for Finance was briefed by Department of Finance officials about their concerns about this deal and other transactions involving IBRC.

For example, €64 million was written off for Blue Ocean Associates before being purchased by a consortium also involving Denis O'Brien.

It was reported at the weekend indeed that the total write downs granted to big business by IBRC amount to over €1 billion euro.

When the Government was asked repeatedly to establish a Commission of Investigation it chose instead to appoint the special liquidators, who had helped to close IBRC down, to review all transactions at IBRC over €10 million.

The liquidators are from KPMG auditors - the very people who oversaw the sale of Siteserv!

If ever there was an ‘insider’ review process, this was it.

The fundamental issues which gave rise to this extraordinary series of events have not been resolved and the Commission of Investigation is only part of the answer.

The statement today by the Minister for Finance to correct the Dáil record totally contradicts earlier statement made by him.

And while I accept that the Minister made these statements in good faith, I am sure he agrees this will do little to allay public concerns about the political oversight of IBRC.

But the political oversight of IBRC is not even included in the Terms of Reference.

Think of the tens of thousands of families struggling to pay mortgages, or who cannot pay and live under the threat of eviction, or those small businesses who can’t get credit from the banks, or elderly ladies - some of them over 100-years-old - lying on hospital trollies. Think of what this has to say to them about the Government’s priorities and the evidence of this Government’s deferential treatment of banks and wealthy elites.

It is an example of the toxic relationship that has long existed between big business and political parties such as Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil.

In a letter I wrote last week to the Taoiseach and the Minister of Finance, I made a number of recommendations aimed at broadening the proposed Terms of Reference for a Commission of Investigation into IBRC transactions.

Later on Mary Lou McDonald will outline here in detail the Sinn Fein position regarding the revised Terms of Reference.

But let me say that I do not believe that they deal comprehensively with all of the issues that the Commission of Investigation needs to examine.

It’s also important to state that the concerns around IBRC are not confined to the bank.

Similar concerns surround the operation of the National Asset Management Agency (NAMA).

NAMA also has been handling billions of euro in debts arising from the economic crash, mainly from the collapse of the construction industry. 

NAMA has been ordered to wind up faster than its 2020 remit demands.

Sinn Féin is concerned that this may result in a failure to get full value for the taxpayer and that NAMA is undertaking a firesale of assets to meet an arbitrary deadline.

So, the distinct impression that citizens are left with after weeks of exposure to the IBRC scandal is that a culture of secrecy exists at the heart of this Government.

There isn’t even any inclusion of an investigation into alleged verbal agreements as part of some of the transactions undertaken by IBRC.

And then we have the spectacle of the Minister for Finance, and the Taoiseach again this morning, claiming that, after three years of Parliamentary Questions, that he had adequately answered each one, is an insult to intelligence of citizens.

The blatant and persistent withholding of information from the Dáil and from citizens by senior members of Government underlines the lack of genuine democracy here.

This is the same political culture of cronyism and graft that you promised to do away with.

This remains a Government of golden circles and insiders.

And I note the effort of Fianna Fáil to re-invent themselves as guardians of the Oireachtas and the right to Dáil privilege unless, of course, that involves Teachta Mary Lou McDonald.

So, this indeed show business. It’s business as usual and no amount of spin and bluster can disguise the toxic nature of the political culture that permeates the way the Governments here do their business, particularly concerning transactions entered into by IBRC.” 

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