MEP candidates for Ireland South, RTÉ’s Miriam O’Callaghan and Independents 4 Change TD Mick Wallace on Prime Time debate last night
RTÉ One’s Prime Time broadcast the first of its three European election debates.
Last night’s concerned the Ireland South constituency with nine of the 23 candidates taking part – including Wexford Independents 4 Change TD Mick Wallace.
During the debate, journalist Miriam O’Callaghan had the following exchange with Mr Wallace about his financial affairs.
Miriam O’Callaghan: “Mick Wallace, you portray yourself always as very much a man of the people.
“But, in fact, you’ve had tens of millions of euro debts wiped out. You’ve been fined for not paying your construction workers pension contributions on time.
“You knowingly made false declarations on VAT. I mean, are you the sort of person that the voters of Ireland South should send to Europe to represent them?”
Mick Wallace: “Well first of all. Your presentation of the pension thing is a bit inaccurate.”
Wallace: “Well. There was a dispute with the pension board at the time. We paid all our pensions, every bit of it. And we actually paid more…”
O’Callaghan: “You were fined, I think, €7,000…”
Wallace: “We were fined because we had a row with the pension board because they made us pay for six workers that went back to Eastern Europe six months earlier and they thought we should pay for them after we had released them from their work.
“And that was the only reason that we were in the court despite the fact that the media presented it very differently.”
O’Callaghan: “OK, but the general point, I’m making in terms, I suppose, about tens of millions of euro being wiped out and the VAT issue.”
Wallace: “Well, first of all, with regard to the VAT issue, which has happened over ten years ago, and I’d say it’s probably the most discussed VAT issue in the history of the planet but we owed €1.4million in VAT, we didn’t get it because the money for the sale of the apartments went to the solicitor, who was obliged to give it to the bank.
“And normally the bank will give it to you to give to the Revenue. They wouldn’t give it to us because all the apartments weren’t sold.
“We actually never got it into our hands to give it to the Revenue.
“On the other issue, you’re talking about tens of millions being wiped out, right?”
O’Callaghan: “But did you knowingly make a false declaration on VAT?”
Wallace: “Yes, we did, yeah. And listen, and my biggest crime at the time was being straight about it, right, because we wanted to try, we were employing, at one stage, over 200 people.
“We wanted to keep the business going. And the idea that one would not pay their full VAT, on a particular date and pay it later, is not unusual in business.”
O’Callaghan: “OK, what about Cerberus? I mean you spent a lot of time giving out about it in the Dáil. But you rarely have ever said, and in fact you owe them millions.”
Wallace: “Who? Cerberus?”
Wallace: “I don’t owe Cerberus anything.”
O’Callaghan: “Didn’t…I thought they made you bankrupt?”
Wallace: “They did yeah but I don’t owe them anything. I don’t owe Cerberus anything. Cerberus, listen, let me be clear. Let me clarify it right.
“I was dealing with four banks – three of which were foreign, right? So I didn’t go into Nama. And when you talk about tens of millions of debt right…”
O’Callaghan: “But Mick you know, they made you bankrupt on the basis that you owed them two million.”
Wallace: “Two million? I didn’t even owe it to them. Right. There was a security of €2million put on a building in Inchicore which had absolutely nothing to do with them. They actually went into court and told three lies on an affidavit and unfortunately the judge was obliged to believe them.”
O’Callaghan: “OK but I suppose Mick we can’t be saying that people told lies. They’re not here…”
Wallace: “I can say, I can say it very clearly. And the only reason that Cerberus bankrupted me was because of the fact that I exposed the fact that they paid a €15million bribe to get Project Eagle.”
O’Callaghan: “But I suppose it was [former Fine Gael Finance Minister] Michael Noonan’s point that maybe you had a feud with them but that you didn’t enough come clean on admitting your relationship with them. It’s about transparency.”
Wallace: “I had no relations with Cerberus. And when Cerberus, when I raised the issue about Cerberus, right? Cerberus had nothing to do with my business. They bought one property from Ulster Bank which happened, I had, believe it or not, I had 39 properties with Ulster Bank and Ulster Bank asked me to work with them to sell them and one fell through the net and they didn’t sell it.
“And they threw it into Promontoria Ireland which Cerberus bought. That has nothing, that was after…”
O’Callaghan: “I suppose it was a simple point Michael Noonan, former minister for finance made, which was that maybe you should have declared your interest in relation to Cerberus…”
Wallace: “I didn’t have an interest with them then. Cerberus didn’t come on the scene until later.”
Wallace: “That’s totally disingenuous.”
O’Callaghan: “Well then the minister is wrong?”
Wallace: “A hundred per cent. And that wasn’t the only thing he was wrong on.”
Watch back in full here
Ireland South candidates take part in TV debate (RTE)
Previously: Project Eagle And The €3.5 Billion Haircut (Broadsheet, July 2, 2015)
‘I Can’t For The Life Of Me Understand Why No One Gives A Bollox’ (Broadsheet, November 7, 2018)
Related: Mick Wallace’s bankruptcy latest chapter in Cerberus feud (The Irish Times, December 2016)
Noonan challenges Mick Wallace to ‘declare interest’ on Cerberus (The Irish Times, February 28, 2017)