Urgency but no panic for a midnight special
The Cabinet met again at 9pm to formally approve the Bill. Noonan was scheduled to address the Dáil at 10.30pm but this was delayed to allow the Opposition to be briefed. When the Dáil convened for the special session at 11pm, it was delayed a further hour to allow Opposition TDs time to study the Bill and its impact.
When Noonan finally got to his feet after midnight, he outlined a Bill that was relatively straightforward in its powers but far-reaching in impact.
The Bill gave authority to appoint a special liquidator to take over the bank and also provided for all its assets to be sold or transferred to Nama. It also would extinguish the promissory notes and replace them with bonds.
The debates in the Dáil and Seanad followed a similar pattern with Fianna Fáil and some Independents supporting the measures in a qualified way, and the others opposing them. The main criticism revolved around 850 staff at IBRC being made redundant immediately, although Noonan said some would be retained for a period. The other line of attack was there was no evidence that the burden of debt was being reduced; rather its repayment schedule was being prolonged.
After just under three hours of debate in the Dáil, the Bill was passed by 113 votes to 35 just before 3am and referred to the Seanad.
The debate in the Seanad commenced at about 3am and was completed a little after 5.50am when the Upper House approved the legislation by 37 votes to six. In his final contribution at the end of an exhausting night, delivered after 5am to bleary-eyed Senators, Noonan hinted more strongly than before that the ECB might not make a final decision yesterday.
Having completed all stages, the Bill was sent by dispatch rider to Áras an Uachtaráin where the President signed it into law a little after 7am. Once the enacted legislation returned, Noonan signed orders to give effect to its most important provisions, finishing what had been a marathon night.
The Minister and his officials were dampening down expectations of the ECB board rubberstamping a done deal, with some suggesting it might take another two weeks. In retrospect, this seemed to be excessive caution. It was known that ECB president Mario Draghi wanted a unanimous rather than majority decision, and there was resistance from some central banks.
But when, shortly before 2pm yesterday, Draghi finally declared the confusing, but decisive, phrase that the ECB board had “unanimously noted” the move, the deal was essentially done. Within minutes the Cabinet was in session, allowing Taoiseach Enda Kenny to go into the Dáil after 3pm to outline the new deal.