Drama’s representation of night of guarantee reminds us politicians play with live ammunition
There is no appetite for another expensive judicial tribunal
It also succeeded because the banks, for reasons of public relations, did not attempt to mount any legal challenge to the proceedings. Given the stakes involved for some of the individuals who might be called to give evidence into an inquiry into the banking collapse that willingness to co-operate might not apply.
Another inquiry that took place in the 1990s that is rarely mentioned could also provide a template. This was the 1995 report of a sub-committee of the Dáil Legislation and Security Committee into the events surrounding the collapse of the Albert Reynolds-led Fianna Fáil-Labour coalition and the role of the Brendan Smith case in the affair.
In a little over a month, between December 20th 1994 and January 26th 1995, the committee examined almost 20 of the key individuals involved from the former Taoiseach down. The witnesses appeared without legal representation and gave a detailed account of their role in the affair. A report which provided a full account of the dramatic events that led to the collapse of the Reynolds government was published a month later and the total cost was around €30,000.
While the committee was not able to make findings of fact it was able to ensure that a complete narrative of events was put into the public domain within months of the dramatic events that led to the only change of government without an election in the history of the state. A similar examination of the banking collapse would at least provide some clarity.
By a strange coincidence two valuable efforts at explaining the banking collapse emerged in the same week as the Anglo tapes. Colin Murphy’s play Guaranteed was a riveting dramatisation of the night of the guarantee and the events that led to it.
The author conceded in the programme notes that while the play was not always the literal truth it aimed to capture the essence of real events and that it certainly did. The scene in the cabinet room on the night of the guarantee was a reminder that Governments have to play with live ammunition.
The other exploration of what happened to Ireland in recent years was the publication of a book The Fall of the Celtic Tiger, by economists Donal Donovan and Antoin Murphy. Both stood out from the bulk of their colleagues for the authority and depth of their analysis as the crisis unfolded and their book is an invaluable account of recent Irish history.
Interestingly, their conclusion about the bank guarantee is not the popular one. “In the end, the decision, despite all its costly consequences, appears to have been the least-worst alternative facing the Government.”
Whatever happens next it is imperative that all the major actors in the drama say what happened. It may be five years after the event but better late than never. (ends)