SOME of the country’s top developers and politicians gathered yesterday afternoon in a room normally reserved for weddings.
It was a fitting venue, given that for many years there appeared to be a very happy marriage between developers and the political elite in Ireland. But the divorce courts are beckoning and construction chiefs are annoyed.
When the developers and contractors who gathered at the Rochestown Park Hotel in Cork City yesterday were first invited to ask questions of the panel of speakers it took a while for them to become brave enough to put up their hands.
However, as the afternoon advanced they certainly became braver.
Then came the turn of one of the country’s biggest developers, Michael O’Flynn, who wanted to know firstly how Labour leader Eamon Gilmore defined a developer and secondly why Mr Gilmore believes NAMA is a bailout for developers.
Mr Gilmore said developers must take responsibility for “the hole we are in”. He said he would defined developers as “business people that develop property, infrastructure, develop things that we need.”
But Mr O’Flynn was not happy with his answer.
“You keep using the word bailout but we will still owe the same amount of money after [NAMA] as we did before. This is not a bailout,” said Mr O’Flynn, whose property company developed Ireland’s tallest building, the Elysian in Cork City.
But Mr Gilmore said he was concerned that the taxpayer would be carrying the risk with NAMA.
Again however, Mr O’Flynn found this answer unacceptable and said that although he accepted that they [the developers] have to take some blame it always comes down to “just us and the banks” asking Mr Gilmore to look at what the political people did.
He finally accepted he would not be getting a satisfactory answer from the Labour party leader. “I’m just sorry to tell you, you haven’t answered the question I asked in terms of satisfaction,” he said.
Mr O’Flynn was not the only developer to put tough questions to Deputy Gilmore. There was no doubt yesterday that construction chiefs are angry. They do not want to be blamed solely for the mess the country is now in but they will however admit that “of course we are part of the blame” but as Tom Parlon, president of the Construction Industry Federation said: “We wouldn’t have continued to build houses if people hadn’t continued to buy them.”
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