Kenny says Government planning Oireachtas inquiry into banking collapse

Fianna Fáil leader does not believe bankers can be held to account by parliamentary investigation

Tue, Jun 25, 2013, 19:25

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said the Government will initiate an Oireachtas investigation into the banking collapse.

Amid heated exchanges on the Anglo Irish Bank tapes in the Dáil this afternoon, Mr Kenny said the necessary legislation would be processed through the Dáil and Seanad.

“We will set up our parliamentary inquiry; we will define the set of terms of reference and move on to get accountability and truth in the people’s interest,” he added.

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All sides of the House strongly condemned the content of the tapes and the individuals involved and demanded Government action. Mr Kenny said: “The buck stops with the Government and I am going after [reckless bankers].”

Mr Kenny said the tapes had been supplied to the Garda over four years ago as part of its investigation into matters at the bank. That investigation had led to a number of criminal charges being brought.

He was speaking after taped recordings published by the Irish Independent showed senior bank executives both misled led the Central Bank about the scale of its financial woes in 2008 and intended to abuse the State bank guarantee.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said the contents of the tapes had angered, sickened and shocked people across the country. A comprehensive, independent inquiry was required, but the Government should reflect on whether it should be a parliamentary inquiry. Such an inquiry could not hold non-officeholders to account, he added.

“The people in these tapes cannot be held to account by a parliamentary inquiry,” he added.

Responding to questions on the leaked tapes of conversations between Anglo Irish Bank executives from 2008, Mr Kenny said it was important to remember “who the victims are; the families and ordinary people”.

Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams said he was astounded to discover that Finance Minister Michael Noonan had no idea the tapes existed.

“If he didn’t know, then why didn’t he know?” Mr Adams asked.

The Sinn Féin leader said the fact the Government was unaware of the practice of recording phone calls questions how much confidence the public should place in it.

Mr Adams added that Minister for Justice Alan Shatter should have had access to the tapes and been able to compile a report of ongoing Garda investigations for the public domain.

He said had the tapes not emerged through the media, the bankers in question would not have been exposed.

Earlier, Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin said the Government planned to spend the summer “getting all the detail in place getting the scoping done and all the regulations in place so we can embark on a proper inquiry early in the next Dáil term”.

Such an inquiry would have the ability to summon witnesses and take evidence under oath, Mr Howlin said.

Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn said while the content of the Anglo Irish Bank tapes had not been discussed by the Cabinet today - while he was in attendance - Ministers were shocked by the content and tone of the revelations.

Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore said the latest revelations about Anglo Irish could affect Ireland’s negotiations with its European partners on debt relief.

The Tánaiste said he was “shocked” by the latest revelations, which he said displayed a level of “arrogance and hubris” that was part of the culture of the failed institution. “I’m angry about what I’ve heard on those tapes, and I believe that every member of the Government is .”

Mr Gilmore added the revelations made the Government’s work at EU level more difficult.

“What has come out of these tapes doesn’t make our job any easier,” Mr Gilmore told reporters in Luxembourg. Ireland may look to the euro zone’s ESM rescue fund to

help recoup some of the taxpayer’s money that was put into AIB and Bank of Ireland, but some countries, including Germany, are against the idea.

One Anglo executive, the bank’s then head of capital markets John Bowe, can be heard singing a comedy version of Deutschland Uber Alles in the latest recording to be released.

Mr Bowe and Mr Drumm can also be heard laughing at concerns from the financial regulator that the flow of deposits into Ireland following the bank guarantee was causing unrest between Ireland and its EU partners.

“We won’t do anything blatant, but . . . we have to get the money in . . . get the f***in’ money in, get it in,” Mr Drumm says to Mr Bowe.

Mr Gilmore said the current Government had been working hard to “win the trust” of EU member states and institutions and that his European partners understood there had been a change of leadership in the State since the bank guarantee was introduced. “I think the countries that we are dealing with accept that the present government has worked in good faith to try and resolve the problems, but the emergence of these tapes certainly hasn’t made our job any easier.”

Mr Howlin said he, like everybody, was “sickened” by the tapes. “I think they underscore an attitude that is unbelievable. There is no sense of the incredible damage done to this country and the ones we heard today were from after the guarantee was put in place,” he said. “People at the heart of these decisions obviously knew the scale of what was going to be burned up in this debacle and they must have had some understanding of the impact on the Irish economy and Irish people.”

A Department of Public Expenditure and Reform spokeswoman said an inquiry and criminal proceedings could be carried out in parallel.

A spokesman for the Central Bank said it was not a requirement for banks to record phone conversations. He added that the Central Bank was not required to record conversations with representatives of Irish banks.