Thanks a billion, citizens, but just don’t look for any answers on Anglo
Having signed a €64 billion cheque for the banking sector, taxpayers are due some answers
David Drumm: he says he’s sorry. But for what, exactly? Photograph: Bryan O’Brien
We’d all probably blush if our telephone conversations were played back to us. You could almost feel the heat from David Drumm’s cheeks on this side of the Atlantic after the Anglo tapes were aired last week.
This might explain his apology to Irish taxpayers at the weekend in an interview with US-based Irish journalist Niall O’Dowd – five years after the collapse of Anglo Irish Bank, whose bailout will probably end up costing the State about €25 billion.
Not even Charlie Bird could shake an apology from former Anglo chief Drumm when he door-stepped him at his then home in Massachusetts a few years back.
John Bowe, one of the other former senior executives at the bank to feature prominently in the taped conversations, has been similarly contrite since some of the tapes were aired.
Current and former executives at the other Irish banks must now be nervous about the possibility of their own conversations being made public.
If nothing else the tapes might hasten the long overdue banking inquiry. They have stoked up public anger to the point where the Government and various interested parties can likely no longer fudge the issue.
The Government no doubt has mixed views about an inquiry.
With our exit from the troika bailout within reach, Michael Noonan would probably prefer to keep the head down and not spook the markets. This crisis wasn’t of his making but he will be held accountable for sorting it out and delivering the recovery.
Things aren’t exactly going to plan on that score with the economy now officially back in recession, the numbers of people in arrears with their mortgage payments continuing to rise and still no sight of a return to normalised lending.
Getting back our economic sovereignty would at least tick one box on his sheet of things to do.
On the other hand, an inquiry might shine an uncomfortable light on Fianna Fáil’s management of the banking crisis and nip its recent renaissance in the bud. Polls from last weekend indicate a softening in support for FF.
It remains to be seen what kind of inquiry we get. Would a parliamentary inquiry have sufficient teeth? Could it prejudice the various legal proceedings and investigations currently in train and connected with Anglo and Irish Nationwide? What about a tribunal of inquiry headed by a former member of the judiciary?
Do we even need an official inquiry?
Publishing the advice
What’s to stop Michael Noonan holding his own internal review of what happened in the Department of Finance in the run-up to and immediate aftermath of the September 2008 bank guarantee, and the subsequent nationalisation of Anglo and Irish Nationwide and the bailouts of Bank of Ireland, AIB, EBS and Irish Life & Permanent?
What’s to stop him from publishing all the advice received from various consultants, law firms and other experts whose counsel was sought?
And the fees they were paid for each piece of work.
We have been given some titbits from this counsel but there remains a huge deficit in the information available on these crucial decisions.
He could make a comprehensive statement in the Dáil or to an Oireachtas joint committee on his findings.
What’s to stop the Central Bank of Ireland from providing a step-by-step account of its various actions in relation to the banks from, say, the beginning of 2008? What’s to prevent it publishing whatever advice it received from external advisers, or from providing minutes from board meetings, or from publishing correspondence from the banks?
An inquiry, parliamentary or otherwise, would be a neater solution and could prove cathartic.
But inquiry or no, there’s still a lot of information that can be provided by various arms of the State that would answer a lot of questions.
Having signed a €64 billion bailout cheque for the banking sector, taxpayers are long overdue this information.