Belfast Telegraph

U2 docklands site deal defended

A state body has denied U2 got a secret deal to buy a prime docklands site where they spent years recording music.

The Dublin Docklands Development Authority (DDDA) paid 5.1 million euro for two buildings on Hanover Quay in boom time 2004 only to sign off on a 450,000 euro deal with the band for one of the old waterfront warehouses at the start of this year.

Spending watchdog the Public Accounts Committee was told Unit 16 was not put on the open market in October 2013 and the sale had been agreed in "exceptional circumstances".

The DDDA's financial consultant John Crawley claimed it was a fair market price based on two independent valuations.

"I'm not sure it's right to categorise it as a deal that was done behind the scenes," the adviser said.

"We still looked into our hearts and are comfortable that the right process had been followed, the right due diligence had been done and the right sale price had been achieved."

The docklands' development body, which is being wound up after a catalogue of doomed property investments including the Irish Glass Bottle site, originally bought 12 and 16 Hanover Quay from businessman and developer Harry Crosbie in 2004 under compulsory purchase orders.

The plan was to also buy the U2 owned Unit 18, to build a boardwalk along the quay and ultimately for the 32 storey U2 Tower over the Liffey to be built and the band rehoused in studios on the top two floors.

The band have been recording in the docks area of Dublin since the mid-90s and are currently in rehearsals.

The PAC watchdog was told the sale of Unit 16 to U2 was the only time the DDDA sold a site or property using the "exceptional circumstances" rule of not going to the open market since plans to wind up the authority were announced in May 2012.

It was signed off by then board and chairman John Tierney, former Dublin City Council chief and now head of Irish Water.

Joe Costello, Labour TD, claimed the real asset was the site on Hanover Quay and not the old warehouse building being used by the band and that ultimately it could be worth close to five million euro.

"It's very hard to agree with you, on the basis that it's not the property, it's the development and location of the site," Mr Costello told the DDDA chiefs.

"It seems to me that's the type of deal we were very critical of the DDDA for conducting over the years."

The DDDA said it secured the sale of Unit 16 to the band for 144 euro a square foot - 450,000 euro - after comparing it to a nearby site on the open market valued at 99 euro a square foot.

It described the outcome of the compulsory buy ups along Hanover Quay and the recent sale as a "significant loss".

PAC chairman John McGuinness told Mr Crawley: "You're telling me... you can do your maths all right."

The deal with U2 for No16 was agreed in October 2013 after independent valuations from Lambert Smith Hampton for the DDDA and separate valuations from an agent acting for the band but not signed off until January this year.

The committee heard the rock group had been tenants in Unit 16 for a number of years but the DDDA chiefs were unable to confirm if the band's lease had expired by the time the sale was agreed.

Mr Crawley said U2 would have been considered the "occupiers".

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