Swift return in blame game: John Bruton hits back at ECB member


THE EUROPEAN Central Bank (ECB) executive board member who said that the Republic’s taxpayers must carry the cost of bailing out the banks should look to his own organisation’s role in the financial crisis, according to former taoiseach John Bruton.

Yesterday, ECB executive board member Lorenzo Bini Smaghi argued that the State’s taxpayers should not complain about having to pay for the consequences of the credit boom.

Mr Bini Smaghi said that the Republic’s citizens elected the governments which were responsible for supervising the banks as the crisis built.

Mr Bruton, a former EU ambassador to Washington, said that the ECB had supervisory powers that were either not used through its own omission or because individual European governments did not want to activate them.

He argued that where there were transactions involving Irish and, for example, German, British or French institutions, the central bank in each country would have been responsible for what happened in their jurisdictions, while the ECB would have had an overall supervisory role.

Mr Bruton pointed out that what happened in the Republic was not hidden. Banks were lending large amounts of money and property prices were increasing rapidly, and the ECB could have paid closer attention.

“It’s important that the ECB look to its own responsibility first,” he said. Mr Bruton added that while he did not necessarily disagree with Mr Bini Smaghi’s remarks, made in a newspaper article, and he respected his views, they did not represent the whole story.

Mr Bruton was speaking after an IFSC Ireland function yesterday. He is president of the body, a private-sector organisation that is promoting the international financial services sector abroad.