Nama and how the cause of impoverished developers became a national cause celebre

It’s hard to remember, but for all the high controversy around Nama, there is still no direct evidence of law breaking having taken place. Much of the material in Mick Wallace’s contribution to the Dail (he has an OpEd in today’s IT) has proven at best incomplete, at worst misleading.

What appears to be driving the story is the anger of a number of developers (some of whom, like Mick, have conflicting interests) who feel their properties were undervalued by the whole exercise of pooling a number of NI assets and selling them off as a single bundle.

As John McManus notes, there was political pressure on Nama to make a deal from a Republic’s government then itself under huge fiscal pressure under pressure to pay bills without breaking the boundaries of the fiscal space.

A year later, with the economy taking off again and that pressure had eased: property prices moved up and the trauma to individual developer’s wealth might well have been avoided by taking the foot off the pedal.

This is the fuzzy territory in which Nama and the southern AG/CG find themselves at odds. And yet from what we reliably know already, and even though it’s arguable that Frank Cushnahan acted unethically, no one has yet provided proof even he acted illegally.

As Michael McDowell pointed out yesterday Nama’s key problem arises from the way in which it was set up: such that no one was allowed make direct approaches to them. The idea was to keep them squeaky clean, but the result is that it finds it remarkably difficult to prove that.

On the same programme as McDowell, Colum Eastwood said he wanted to unbutton the 2005 Enquiries Act with an amendment and move to have a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between Belfast, Dublin and London to enable criminal investigations to co-operate across borders.

He signalled the problem of getting it past the DUP, but the bigger roadblock is likely to be that there still no signs of any actual criminality having taken place. As McDowell notes, someone does need to put a rule over the whole operation of Nama, otherwise we’re chasing shadows.

The upshot is that a lot of hay has been made by turning vague allegations regarding value and misconduct into something harder, turning the case of a class of Irish businessmen/women (the mere mention of which six years ago would have caused a Twitter riot) into a remarkable cause celebre.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Two words Mick Wallace.

    Perhaps the only reason we care about impoverished property developers at all.

  • terence patrick hewett

    This is so complex: what Apple have done is what all companies do: that is minimise their tax burden to the best of their ability. What VW has done is conduct a criminal conspiracy to evade multi-continental standards. When you are dealing with such vast amounts of wealth: corruption is going to happen. What is the answer. I do not know.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Who’s brought Volkswagen or Apple into this debate…but while the whataboutery is in play … Let’s compare Apples and well Touaregs

    Internal Market Commissioner Elzbieta Bienkowska has said that Volkswagen should be issuing compensation for the vehicles mis-sold by the company

    Whilst Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager points out …

    “If taxes are not being paid by some, then they have to be paid by others, and that is why it is not fair competition when some member states hand out selective tax benefits.”

    The EU Commission statement on this matter states

    “This selective tax treatment of Apple in Ireland is illegal under EU state aid rules, because it gives Apple a significant advantage over other businesses that are subject to the same national taxation rules. The Commission can order recovery of illegal state aid for a ten-year period preceding the Commission’s first request for information in 2013. Ireland must now recover the unpaid taxes in Ireland from Apple for the years 2003 to 2014 of up to €13 billion, plus interest.”

  • Declan Doyle

    The right wing press would love to find Wallace’ assertions bogus. But as time goes by,more and more people are beginning to listen to him and place their trust in the statements he has made. This story is slowly unravelling and signs are that Wallace will be hailed as a sincere fighter on this issue. His own past problems are real but in no way dining his credibility on this issue.

  • terence patrick hewett

    the irish state and apple do not agree.

  • Kevin Breslin

    I feel the Irish public might disagree with the Irish state for the most part on this. We’ll have to see what results.

  • Kevin Breslin

    To get back on topic, I’m sure Mick brought up Apple if he did because NAMA was a clear example of the dangers of “state aid.

  • john millar

    “His own past problems are real but in no way dining his credibility on this issue.”


    The position is (relatively) simple -Developers /investors AND other property buyers thought that property prices would rise exponentially for ever.
    These greedy bastards ( for want of a better description) borrowed from even greedier compliant bankers who blinded by the fees earned- funded a crazy escalation of property prices. All secured on the alleged value of property

    When property prices collapsed the developers retreated behind the limited liability of corporate status and the banks were left holding the baby –the property held as security- and were thus owed billions.

    The ROI government rode to the rescue bailed out the banks and took the property into NAMA –with the aim of recovering at least some of the bail out. The shysters in property development having dumpted on the Irish Government/people now hope to buy back “their” property –at of course the now reduced price. Disposals elsewhere have avoided this happy event.

    Whining about poor performance by NAMA and whether or not illegal incentives were paid to help disposal are a useful distraction from the real issue—greed and wholesale government brought incompetence.

  • Declan Doyle

    Nothing is distracting from the real issue other that your own rant

  • john millar

    Try highlighting the inaccuracies in the “rant”

  • Declan Doyle

    The big glaring one where you claim Mick Wallace has no credibility