Bankers centre stage in high-stakes drama over guarantee

One banker says early on they were pushing for a State guarantee, but others are less clear when this issue first arose that night

Former taoiseach Brian Cowen: along with many others he has remained silent about what happened on the night of September 29th, 2008, the night of the fateful bank guarantee

Former taoiseach Brian Cowen: along with many others he has remained silent about what happened on the night of September 29th, 2008, the night of the fateful bank guarantee

Sat, Apr 19, 2014, 03:00

Over the last five years and almost seven months everybody from the then taoiseach Brian Cowen down has remained silent about what happened on the night of September 29th, 2008, the night of the fateful bank guarantee.

As the State finally gets around to establishing an Oireachtas inquiry into the banking crash The Irish Times details for the first time what Ireland’s four most powerful bankers believe happened.

Based on accounts to gardaí seen by this newspaper, each of the bankers tells their side of what happened.

It is a story that begins in 2007 with the sub-prime mortgage crisis in America, continues into 2008 with the near collapse of Bear Stearns, a run on the deposits of Northern Rock, and the failure of Lehman Brothers on September 15th, 2008.

Credit simply evaporates and Ireland’s overinflated credit-hooked banking system faces being swept away.

Anglo Irish Bank has run out of money. Irish Nationwide is not far behind it and all of the State’s banks are struggling.


Plea for assistance
Ireland’s private banking sector, having

expanded agggressively through lending and property investment during the boom, now needs public help.

Each of the four bankers including the State’s two biggest financial institutions – Bank of Ireland and AIB – have a different view of what led to that night and what occurred.

One banker says that early on they are pushing for a State guarantee, but others are less clear when this issue first arose that night.

All four recall being asked by the State if they would be prepared to pump €10 billion between them into Anglo Irish Bank to prevent the State’s third-biggest bank defaulting the following day.

The bankers are fearful that if they do so, their money will be lost. But if Anglo is not helped, the repercussions could crash the entire system.

Back and forth the debate goes from 9.30pm that night into the early hours between the bankers, their supervisors and the State.Then taoiseach Brian Cowen rings an economist who sits on the board of the Central Bank for his opinion.

The strain is showing as the clock ticks towards the markets opening the following day. Something has to be done and is done.

At 4am in the morning the bankers tale ends and they go home to bed. The State makes a far-reaching decision that leads a few hours later to cabinet ministers being woken from their beds.

Ireland signs up to a blanket guarantee of all deposits, bonds and loans worth €440 billion at the six domestic lenders: Bank of Ireland, AIB, Anglo Irish Bank, Irish Life & Permanent, Irish Nationwide and the EBS.

This was 10 times the national debt and twice the economic output of the State.

Ultimately, the guarantee will cost the State €64 billion.

This is the bankers’ story.