FF attacks Kenny over plan for NAMA

EDUCATION Minister Batt O’Keeffe will today turn the NAMA row personal by claiming Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny has a “hapless grasp” of economic issues and is an embarrassment to his own party.

It comes as Finance Minister Brian Lenihan prepares to face a grilling over the plan at an Oireachtas committee hearing on Monday.

Mr O’Keeffe will deliver the comments at an Ogra Fianna Fáil conference in Cork. In his prepared script, he defends NAMA and claims Fine Gael’s proposed alternative is “deluded”.

Referring to Mr Kenny directly, Mr O’Keeffe states: “Enda’s hapless grasp of the economy may be embarrassing for his own party but it’s a more serious issue for the country which needs leaders of substance, not limpets armed with soft-focus con-job policies.”

But Fine Gael claimed it was the Government which was deluded after a Fianna Fáil TD suggested the property market was recovering.

On RTÉ Radio yesterday, former minister Frank Fahey said the market had “already started” to rebound.

Fine Gael frontbench TD Phil Hogan said Mr Fahey’s comments were a “scary revelation of the mindset within Fianna Fáil that is driving the NAMA gamble.” Taxpayers were right to be increasingly afraid of the NAMA plan, he added.

“The economic illiteracy behind the NAMA developer/banker bailout was exposed by Frank Fahey when he claimed that the property market had rebounded. If this is the level of understanding of the issues facing the Irish economy, then it should come as no surprise that Fianna Fáil have driven us in to a deep depression.”

Under the Government’s proposals, NAMA will buy at a discount some €90 billion of property loans from the banks in a bid to cleanse balance sheets of risky debt and restore them to health.

Finance Minister Lenihan will appear before the Oireachtas Committee on Finance on Monday to discuss the proposals.

Labour’s Joan Burton said Mr Lenihan would have to address two key issues – the price the Government will pay for the loans and the “truly extraordinary powers” that the legislation establishing NAMA would afford to the minister.

These powers would run the risk of political interference in NAMA, she said.

“This is exactly what many citizens fear about NAMA,” Ms Burton added. “If the bill in its current format goes ahead and becomes law, NAMA will hold more assets than any property company on earth.

“Yet a Government minister of a party with heavily-compromised links to property interests will have vast reserve powers to influence and control its operations and decisions while asserting at the same time that the body is independent…

“Only a Government with a hidden agenda would insist on such reserve powers to control an avowedly independent body.”

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