WHEN it rose out of a hollow in the Powerscourt estate in Co Wicklow, the Ritz-Carlton Hotel became one of the enduring symbols of the Celtic Tiger.
It was built by the one-time titans of Irish property, Johnny Ronan andRichard Barrett of Treasury Holdings, but now Ronan's former 'palace' in the Wicklow Hills will be no more, as details of the hotel's change of ownership have emerged.
The Sunday Independent has confirmed that the 200-room resort "showcasing Palladian-style architecture" – and which has two championship-calibre golf courses and a Gordon Ramsay signaturerestaurant – has been sold for €1m and had all of its estimated €80m debts wiped.
In February, Nama sold its €47m debt in the Ritz-Carlton Powerscourt in Enniskerry to Ranieri Real Estate, the US property-investment company.
A source familiar with the matter said: "The real story is that they bought it for f**k all."
It was at the Ritz-Carlton that former Miss World Rosanna Davison enjoyed a boozy evening with developer Johnny Ronan before they headed off toMorocco on his private jet in 2010.
"It was a Sunday and I was asked in for a business meeting in the Ritz-Carlton,' said Ms Davison.
"I met these two guys for lunch. I had my car with me, so I wasn't going to have a drink, but they ordered wine and told me, 'It's okay, we'll make sure you get a lift home later.'
"I wasn't working the next day, so I decided I'd collect my car in the morning.
"So we finished up the meeting and then moved to the Ritz-Carlton pub, McGills."
She said Johnny Ronan then turned up and one of the guys left.
"So it was the three of us – me, Johnny and this guy he knew, a friend of his."
Ms Davison texted her friend Sarah Leckie, also from Enniskerry, and she joined them in the pub.
"It got to about 12.30 or so and we'd all had quite a few drinks at this stage, I won't lie, and somebody suggested that we'd go somewhere else because the staff wanted to close the bar.
"Johnny suggested that we go somewhere on the jet because it was on stand-by, and then my friend Sarah said, 'Oh, I've never been to Marrakech, let's go to Morrocco', so it all seemed like a fabulous idea at the time."
They went to their respective houses for their passports and overnight bags and ended up in Morrocco by seven in the morning.
Ms Davison said she knew nothing of Mr Ronan's fight with his ex, Glenda Gilson, in Ranelagh until they were actually in Morocco.
"I don't regret any aspect of the trip," she said. "I don't regret the spontaneity of it. I found it liberating. I found it exciting. I really believe in grasping every opportunity in life, and when you're faced with that sort of opportunity you don't stop and think, 'Oh, God, will there be dire consequences?'"
In 2009, Ronan's son, James, then a student at DIT, had his very own coming-of-age extravaganza in the Ritz-Carlton.
At the time, Ronan's wealth was listed as €239m and, like the rest of this emerging class of swaggering alpha-male developers, he wasn't shy about spending it.
"He likes the big price tags," is how one acquaintance put it. That meant fine wines such as Cheval Blanc and Lynch Bages, fine foods, expensive cars (along with his trademark Maybach, he has had a metallic blue Hummer and a two-door gull-wing Mercedes SLR) and important art, with a collection once valued at €10m.
Irish Independent June 2013
DANIEL MCCONNELL – 02 JUNE 2013
A catastrophic failure to tackle Ireland's "out of control" public spending means it is now a high-tax economy, it has been claimed.
Despite a budget deficit of €15bn last year, the public pay bill is up to 35 per cent higher than the OECD average and our welfare spend is 29 per cent higher than the average, leading economist and Trinity College senator Sean Barrett has said.
However, junior finance minister Brian Hayes yesterday rejected Dr Barrett's analysis as "overly simplistic" and said the Government had "rigidly stuck" to its promise not to increase income tax.
Dr Barrett rejected claims made earlier last week in a pan-European research paper that Ireland was a low-tax economy. He said it was because of the rampant overspend on public services that we had become a high-tax economy.
"The international comparisons on pay in that report show that Ireland has a high public pay bill," he said. "The OECD average for compensation of employees is 10.8 per cent of GNP and in Ireland it is 14.1 per cent."
It has emerged that the amount of income being paid by Irish taxpayers in cash terms is significantly higher than it was at the height of the boom, despite there being 250,000 fewer people in work.
According to the Department of Finance, in 2007 when the economy was still roaring ahead, €13.57bn was collected in income tax, which accounted for 29 per cent of all taxes.
ANALYSIS PAGE 19
Now, with the economy stagnating, 75,000 people emigrating each year and 294,600 people unemployed, the Government will take in €15.8bn (or 42 per cent of the total tax take), up from the trough of €11.2bn in 2010. That is a €4.6bn or 41 per cent swing in less than three years.
Dr Barrett said that seeking cuts of only €300m from the public sector when total spending amounts to more than €51bn was totally inadequate. He added that the problem "must be confronted".
"Current expenditure is €51.5bn, from which the Government is looking for €300m in savings," he said. "These savings targets could also have been met had we made across-the-board cuts of 0.58 per cent.
"The pressure must be kept on for proper economic assessment of spending. Public pay is part of the problem and must be confronted."
Despite budget adjustments of €28bn, Mr Hayes said overall spending has had to increase, given the amount of people on the dole and the huge number of additional medical cards in circulation. He said control of spending was "crucial".
Fine Gael TD Eoghan Murphy said: "If there is to be any reprieve in next year's budget, it should be for taxpayers. Taxes on employment remain too high, and the basic structure of social welfare continues to be a disincentive to work."
Fianna Fail finance spokesman Michael McGrath said: "Working families have been hammered and they can take no more. The cumulative impact of all the measures introduced since 2008 has put an enormous strain on families, communities and the spirit of the nation. A lot of poverty is under the radar."