Gilmartin assured bank of ‘government support’

BUSINESSMAN Tom Gilmartin assured senior AIB bankers he had high-level Fianna Fáil government contacts when he successfully applied for a IR£8.5 million short-term loan to get his ambitious west Dublin Quarryvale project under way, the tribunal heard yesterday.

Former senior corporate banking manager Eddie Kay recalled: “On more than one occasion he said: ‘If I told all I know I could bring down the Government.’ But I didn’t take it seriously.”

Despite adverse newspaper comments about his plans, Mr Gilmartin “seemed determined to push ahead with his project come what may. He appeared unwilling to accommodate the views of others”.

In Mr Kay’s view and that of his banking colleagues, Mr Gilmartin’s judgment with regard to the proposed size of the project — one of the largest in Europe at the time — was “suspect”.

The bank’s confidence in Mr Gilmartin was eroded when he ran out of funds to complete land purchases at Quarryvale and to bring in a project partner.

When Mr Gilmartin failed to meet repayment deadlines, the bank became seriously concerned and a contingency plan to sell off the land was considered.

“We made it clear to him if he wasn’t able to bring in a partner within the six months period and/or get a designation we would be talking about the orderly disposal of the site.

“I knew him to be a proud man, totally involved and committed to his grand concept, but not prepared to accept the reality of his position,” Mr Kay told tribunal lawyer Patricia Dillon SC.

The Sligo-born, Luton-based developer had assembled the site when he met Mr Kay in January 1990. The loan was to be repaid in August.

Mr Gilmartin expressed optimism that Quarryvale would get tax designation and that he would get then environment minister Padraig Flynn to ring the banker to say it was forthcoming.

However, Mr Flynn never rang and Mr Kay said it would have been “inappropriate” for the bank to inquire with the department. He never discussed the project with Mr Flynn or with any other politician.

When Cork-based developer Owen O’Callaghan became Quarryvale project manager he told AIB executives the Government was “favourably disposed” to the development. “We believed there was very strong government support for the project but we deduced from that that designation would be part of that,” said Mr Kay.

Mr O’Callaghan, who was brought in by AIB and became Mr Gilmartin’s partner in the Quarryvale project, had made no secret of his support for Fianna Fáil while Mr Gilmartin expressed a poor opinion of politicians generally.

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