The banking inquiry did not get answers on why two of Ireland’s biggest banks gave open support and millions of euro within days for one of the best-known failed boom-time developments after witnesses said they were restricted from talking about the deal.
Bank of Ireland chief executive Richie Boucher and former Ulster Bank chief executive Cormac McCarthy both declined to comment in any detail on the money provided to Seán Dunne’s Jury’s Hotel project in Ballsbridge, Dublin, yesterday.
The €380m-plus purchase of the site in 2007 is widely seen as one of the most eye-catching development plans during the Celtic Tiger era. However, it has provoked significant debate since the crash after Mr Dunne was denied Bord Pleanála permission to redevelop the site.
Questioned over the deal and why he wrote to Dublin City Council supporting the development, Mr Boucher said it was “one of the many stupid things I have done”.
However, he declined to comment any further, citing the fact that while his evidence is protected in Ireland it is not “internationally”.
When asked by Fine Gael TD Kieran O Donnell why Ulster Bank provided up to €100m for the deal within days of Mr Dunne asking in 2005 — a figure that was “15% of your loans”— Mr McCarthy also declined to comment other than to say “every loan is different” and it was a “very competitive marketplace”.
Pushed on the issue by Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty, he said it wasn’t the case of “an open wallet or envelope” regardless of what “credit” a customer had.
After Socialist Party TD Joe Higgins complained about the stance, inquiry chair and Labour TD Ciarán Lynch agreed legal issues meant further details cannot be discussed.
Mr Higgins said the decision is “highly unsatisfactory” as Ireland was then the “wild west of European finance” and he was “trying to tease out the practices” involved. “Was it fair or unfair to say [it was like] the town banker rushing the saloon door to get to the biggest rancher before other bankers got to them.”
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