Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Finance Michael McGrath has expressed concern at the suggestion from Finance Minister Michael Noonan that NAMA could be wound up by the end of next year. Minister Noonan was answering a question from Deputy McGrath on the future of NAMA at the Joint Oireachtas Finance Committee last night.
Deputy McGrath said, “When the suggestion of an accelerated wind-up of NAMA first appeared in the media two months ago, I said that any significant deviation from NAMA’s plan to dispose of its €22 billion loan portfolio up to 2020 must be based on an independent assessment of what will deliver the best return for Irish citizens rather than on any political imperative. My view has not changed.
“The temptation for the government is very clear – to go before the Irish people at the next election and say ‘we have got rid of NAMA’. In opposition, Minister Noonan was an arch critic of NAMA. He now seems to be of the view that is doing a very good job and he has even directed that any unsold IBRC assets would be transferred to NAMA. While I welcome the Minister’s Pauline conversion in support of NAMA, commercial decisions are best made by the agency and not by its political masters. I welcome the views of the NAMA Chairman Frank Daly that the agency now stands every chance of making a profit on its operations.
“There is certainly evidence of strong international demand for quality Irish commercial property assets at the moment – though this is largely limited to Dublin. This has been evidenced by the number of major deals for Irish property and loans concluded by international investors in recent times. It now appears that the Minister has given a political direction that NAMA is to consider accelerating the sale of its portfolio of assets.
“Given the expertise NAMA has built up in the property market over recent years, I believe NAMA is best placed to judge whether an acceleration of the disposal of assets is the right thing for the Irish State. If NAMA is of the view that this is the optimum time to dispose of a greater portion of its portfolio than originally planned, I would expect the agency to inform the Minister accordingly in line with its commercial mandate.
“Every citizen in the country has a vested interest in NAMA succeeding in its task. While the agency has received justifiable criticism for a lack of transparency in certain aspects of its operations, it has to date achieved the key milestones that have been set for it. Any move away from the plan to gradually sell the agency’s assets over the next six years has to be based on a rigorous assessment of what is in the State’s best economic interests.”