Fianna Fáil Environment Spokesperson Barry Cowen has accused the Taoiseach of putting his own political gain ahead of the national interest after it was revealed that the Government intervened to exclude the sale of Westport House in Mayo from a NAMA sale. Taxpayers will now foot the bill for the tourism attraction and its associated loans after it was decided that the State would back a deal to buy it.
Deputy Cowen commented, “The Taoiseach and Minister Michael Ring have stooped to new levels by pressing ahead with such a blatant politically motivated manoeuvre. No doubt Enda Kenny and Minister Ring see this as a victory for their constituency, but what about the wider national interest? We are in the midst of a national housing emergency, and money which could have been used to provide social housing is being spent on acquiring a tourist attraction in the Taoiseach’s back garden.
“Almost half of the Project Arrow portfolio is made up of residential properties here in Ireland. Instead of bidding for the Westport House loans, the Government should have been examining the possibility of acquiring these residential units. Based on the price being quoted, these properties could have been bought for less than €100k per unit – significantly less than what the Government is forking out for modular homes, which have not even been through the planning process. Just over two weeks ago, it was announced that NAMA would build 20,000 units by 2020 where units for less that are available now are sold off to Cerberus”.
“The crass decision to force the taxpayer to fund parish pump politics is a far cry from the democratic revolution that was promised. Where are the Labour Party in this? Were Joan Burton and Alan Kelly consulted and do they believe this is acceptable? This is parochial politics at its best to ensure that Enda Kenny and Michael can be re- elected. There was no political interference allowed in Project Eagle, but parish pump politics was given priority when it came to Project Arrow.
“This move raises a series of serious questions about the decisions that are being made by this Government. On the one hand, Ministers are spinning the line that housing is their number one priority, while on the other money, which could be used to quell the housing crisis is being spent on shoring up support for the Taoiseach and his constituency colleagues. There is no doubt that Westport House is a valuable tourist attraction and a great asset for Co. Mayo, however it should not be given priority over a national housing crisis. This deal speaks for itself and typical of this out of touch and disingenuous Government”.