Makhlouf overseeing Central Bank’s crisis response from Greek lockdown

Governor had flown to Athens to visit family prior to Greece shutting down

It is understood that Gabriel Makhlouf flew to Athens last month to visit a family member who is unwell. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

It is understood that Gabriel Makhlouf flew to Athens last month to visit a family member who is unwell. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

 

Gabriel Makhlouf, the governor of the Central Bank of Ireland, is running the institution from under lockdown in Greece.

The bank confirmed that Mr Makhlouf has been abroad since last month, but said he was in “constant contact” with his colleagues and was able to perform his duties during the economic crisis sparked by Covid-19.

Paschal Donohoe, the Minister for Finance, said he was aware that the governor has been abroad, but said he has been able to make contact with Mr Makhlouf “as required” throughout the crisis.

It is understood that Mr Makhlouf flew to Athens last month to visit a family member who is unwell. Greece had been in partial lockdown since March 10th due to Covid-19. Subsequent to Mr Makhlouf’s arrival, Greek authorities put the country on full lockdown on March 23rd as the public health crisis threatened to spiral out of control.

If Greeks want to leave their homes they are now required to download and fill out a “certificate of citizens’ movement” outlining their reasons for leaving.

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The Greek authorities publicised the lockdown restrictions by sending civil defence messages directly to people’s mobile phones, taking over their screens with messages to “stay home, stay safe”.

Sharon Donnery, the deputy governor, is the most senior Central Bank official in the State in Mr Makhlouf’s absence, although the bank insisted that he was still in charge and “his schedule has not changed”.

“The Central Bank of Ireland is a critical part of the national infrastructure, and we continue to fulfil our mandate so that the stability of the financial system is maintained and consumers are protected in this uncertain time,” it said.

The bank insisted Mr Makhlouf was in contact with “other Government agencies, and with authorities across Europe, often on a daily basis”.

Consultation

Mr Donohoe said decisions around the financial industry measures recently introduced to combat the economic fallout from Covid-19, such the option of a mortgage moratorium, were taken in consultation with Mr Makhlouf.

“The governor has chaired the Central Bank Commission meetings over the past month, and fully participated in ECB Governing Council meetings and Financial Stability Group meetings,” said Mr Donohoe.

He insisted there has been “no impact” on communications with the governor while he has been stuck abroad.

Almost all of the Central Bank’s staff are working remotely, in line with the Government’s recommendations. The bank said up to 1,800 staff have been logging in to work from home each day.

“The Central Bank is considered an essential service, in line with the Government guidance, and accordingly a small number of staff continue to work in our premises at this time; these are staff whose work is deemed essential but who are unable to work remotely, including security personnel,” it said.