Honohan accused of ‘sitting on his hands’ over Anglo Irish tapes

Howlin tells Sinn Féin in Dáil that the courts operate under the Constitution, not courts martial

Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald claimed the Central Bank governor chose to ‘sit on his hands’. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times

Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald claimed the Central Bank governor chose to ‘sit on his hands’. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times

Thu, Sep 26, 2013, 14:01

There were sharp exchanges in the Dáil this morning in a row about Central Bank governor Patrick Honohan’s comments that there were no new issues arising from the release of the Anglo Irish Bank tapes.

Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald claimed the governor chose to “sit on his hands”, and she said the system, including the political system, chose to “look away” from the people who should be held to account and instead to “punish the people”.

She said: “If that obnoxious, macho attitude was characteristic of the bankers and the system including the political system at the time, it would be fair to say it is characteristic of the system now."

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But Minister for Public Reform and Expenditure Brendan Howlin said he believed the attitude in banking had changed but he was not going to say anything that would lessen the prospect of people “who have verged over the edge of criminality being held accountable before the courts”.

He told the Dublin Central TD: “We operate courts of law under the Constitution, not courts martial”. Mr Howlin added that there were those “interested in summary justice”.

Ms McDonald had said that when there was even a suggestionthere had been a ruse to fool or defraud the State, “is it not appropriate for the regulator of the bank to make bloody sure that all of the tapes are listened to and scrutinised, to make absolutely sure that information and material is passed on to the relevant authorities?”

She added: “I would have thought that that was the most basic requirement of somebody who would claim to be a regulator.”

The Sinn Féin deputy leader said she was not asking the Minister to make a commentary on criminal culpability.

“I am asking you on behalf of Government to say in this chamber that it is not appropriate for the governor to sit on his hands, that the material in his possession must be examined fully and that the outcome and the material itself should be passed on to the office of corporate enforcement and to An Garda Síochána - investigative bodies. And let them then draw any appropriate conclusions.”

Mr Howlin said since the Government came to office the law had been changed to give additional powers to the prosecution authorities.

The Government was interested in giving every assistance to the prosecution authorities to ensure that the slow, painstaking, difficult task of holding to account those engaged in criminality, he said.

The Government wanted to ensure that “where there is criminality that those people are held to account and that we don’t do anything that gives any shield or comfort [to those] who may have committed a criminal act to escape accountability”.