Limerick developer denies workers ‘left in lurch’ in Africa

Mike Dwane

Reporter:

Mike Dwane

Ger Clohessy
LIMERICK developer Ger Clohessy has vigorously denied claims by his cousin Kenneth that a number of Limerick workers were “left in the lurch” after proposed construction projects in west Africa ran into difficulty.

LIMERICK developer Ger Clohessy has vigorously denied claims by his cousin Kenneth that a number of Limerick workers were “left in the lurch” after proposed construction projects in west Africa ran into difficulty.

Kenneth Clohessy, from Janesboro, said between six and eight Limerick men had been working on and off in Gabon with Ger Clohessy for the last three years but had experienced problems with late payment of wages and bills for flights and accommodation not being met by his cousin.

Speaking to the Leader from Libreville, the capital of Gabon, this week, Kenneth Clohessy claimed: “We were told before we went out that Africa would be the new land of opportunity and promised the sun, moon and stars but it didn’t turn out like that.”

“We were out here for three or four weeks before last Christmas and we didn’t have a penny between us. We were promised plenty of work and that we would be flown home every 12 weeks but none of that happened.” The men had expected work through long contracts on the redevelopment of a luxury hotel in Libreville and through a state contract building social housing.

But a spokesman for Ger Clohessy said the hotel project referred to was being managed by a South African company with “nothing to do” with Mr Clohessy’s Frame Build Gabon.

Frame Build’s involvement in the social housing scheme was to oversee local tradesmen in the construction of a small number of model homes and had no contract in relation to a larger scheme involving 300 houses, the spokesman said.

He also vehemently denied claims that Limerick workers had been left out of pocket in terms of wages, flights or accommodation – saying all these costs had been met by Frame Build and most of the men were now back in Limerick, the construction projects having ended.

“All the workers were told very clearly at the outset that Africa is a very difficult place to do business in,” the spokesman said.

“They were told that if there was any sign that commitments given to Frame Build were not going to be honoured, the company would have no choice but to withdraw from the project.

“That is what happened. It’s important to point out as well that all the tickets issued and paid for in full by Frame Build were return flights.”

Kenneth Clohessy said he and two other Limerick men who remain in oil-rich Gabon had decided to stay on as “there is more work for us out here than in Ireland”.

“There’s a lot of infrastructure work going on here and government spending so we are looking to set up on our own out here,” he said.

A legal document seen by the Limerick Leader, meanwhile, shows how Ger Clohessy was being legally pursued by a Gabonese businessman in May of this year for 27 million Central African francs (around €41,000) relating to construction works not carried out on his residence in an affluent suburb of the capital.

A spokesman for Ger Clohessy said that project had been delayed owing to a problem with a sub-contractor and that this had been explained to the client who had since been reimbursed.

Mr Clohessy, a former captain of Young Munster RFC, was one of the Limerick area’s most prominent developers during the property boom but the assets of a number of his companies were transferred into Nama after the crash.

In June 2010, he was ordered by Mr Justice Peter Kelly in the Commercial Court to repay over €34 million in loans for development projects to Irish Nationwide.