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'It saddens me to be part of a parliament that brings about this grief' - Nama told

But the bad bank’s boss came out swinging against claims it was being a bully.

Fianna Fáil TD John McGuinness Source: Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland

Updated at 5.14pm

NAMA SHOULD OVERSEE a scheme that spares people the suffering a Tipperary family went through when a member committed suicide after his dealings with the bad bank, one senior Fianna Fáil TD has said.

Public Accounts Committee chairman John McGuinness made the statement at the end of a meeting with Nama officials a day after meeting the dead borrower’s relatives in a private session.

“Everyone has to move on and that is a fact, everyone has to move on – court is not an option for some people, it just isn’t,” he said.

It saddens me to be part of a parliament that created legislation that would bring about the type of grief that I heard explained to me yesterday. I just wonder how, as parliamentarians and legislators, we can correct that.”

Earlier Nama chief executive Brendan McDonagh defended the bad bank against claims it has been too soft on some speculators – while bullying others with a heavy-handed approach.

It comes only days after it was first accused of “relentlessly pursuing” the Co Tipperary widow despite her husband’s suicide.

‘Tough and fair’

McDonagh, who hadn’t responded to the allegations until today, told the committee he believed in being “tough and fair” – but not heavy-handed with debtors.

Nama Nama chief executive Brendan McDonagh

We have had to defend ourselves against the view that perhaps we have been too soft on debtors by allowing them to retain part of their income for massive cash flows or salaries,” he said.

“More recently there seems to be the suggestion that we have been too demanding on some debtors. We disagree with both of these assertions.”

McDonagh said Nama was required under its charter to chase debtors and get money back for its taxpayer backers – regardless of the size of the debt or whether property speculators cooperated with the agency.

About 70% of debtors by value were working with Nama, which was also involved in “about 120″ court cases, the committee was told.

Only one in ten for mediation

Under questioning from Sinn Féin TD Mary Lou McDonald, McDonagh revealed only 10% of cases went to mediation – despite that being the preferred option for both the courts and Nama.

“Two sides have to want to engage in mediation … where it has been proposed we have never refused to go into mediation,” he said.

Nama2 Sinn Féin TD Mary Lou McDonald

McDonagh said that litigation was “unfortunately … sometimes the only option” when debtors refused to accept liability, or tried to offload or transfer assets to family members.

I would contend that Nama has been far more patient in its dealings with debtors than many corresponding private sector commercial banks or private equity entities would be in similar circumstances,” he said.

In an apparent reference to the most recent criticism, he added that Nama couldn’t comment on individual cases “no matter how much the current (media) coverage may fail to indicate the true position”.

State refunded 55% on its debts

Yesterday Nama announced it had now repaid 55% of its taxpayer-funded debt – some €16.6 billion so far – since being set up 5 years ago.

It has generated a total €23.2 billion in cash, although McDonagh previously told the Finance Committee over 93% of its assets had been sold to offshore buyers.

Nama also named Singapore developer Oxley Holdings as the preferred bidder for its North Wall Quay site next to where the proposed new headquarters for the Central Bank will sit.

North Wall Quay The view from the development site on North Wall Quay Source: Google Maps

Construction on another 60,000 sqm of office space and 200 apartments in the northern docklands site was not expected to start until at least late next year.

Nama recently unveiled its plans for a €450 million revamp of another 2 sites in Dublin’s southern docklands, which it will build on as part of a consortium of developers, and a €150 million project at Boland’s Mill.

READ: Mattie McGrath: ‘I could use the C-word about Nama’ >

READ: Nearly all the assets from Nama’s €17.5 billion in fire sales have gone to offshore buyers >

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About the author:

Peter Bodkin  / Editor, Fora

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