Archbishop criticised ‘smugness’ of Anglo executives

Links drawn between activities of high-level bankers and poverty

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin who said it  was difficult to fathom the disparity between the revelations in relation to high-level management at Anglo and the ‘total insecurity and precariousness’ of people availing of services at the Capuchin Centre. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin who said it was difficult to fathom the disparity between the revelations in relation to high-level management at Anglo and the ‘total insecurity and precariousness’ of people availing of services at the Capuchin Centre. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

 

The Catholic Archbishop of Dublin, Dr Diarmuid Martin, has said the “smugness” of former Anglo Irish Bank executives on the tape recordings revealed this week is directly linked with the poor quality of life endured by Irish society’s most vulnerable citizens.

Archbishop Martin was speaking yesterday at the Capuchin Day Centre in Dublin where day-care facilities and meals are provided for the homeless.

He said it was difficult to fathom the disparity between the revelations that are still emerging in relation to high-level management at the bank and the “total insecurity and precariousness” of people availing of services at the Capuchin Centre.

“They are two realities of Irish life: the smugness of some people and the total insecurity and precariousness of people here – and both of those are linked,” he said.

Archbishop Martin also criticised the failure of bankers to take responsibility for their mistakes and said it was similar to the Catholic Church’s response to the child sexual abuse scandal.

“The extraordinary complexity of the financial world can give people the impression ‘I’m not really responsible for what happened’,” he said.

‘Mouldy cake’

“We had this again a little bit in the church with the management of child sexual abuse. ‘It was a systems failure. We weren’t talking. I did my little bit.’ This is a very serious thing in society.

“I use the example of baking a cake: ‘Well I only put the sugar in. And I only put the flour in’. But the cake is there and it is a bad cake – it is a mouldy cake. Everybody has to live up to their responsibilities.”

In terms of continuing public debate regarding the nature of the inquiry into the banking collapse, the archbishop said it was important the issue did not become politicised and that robust regulation be put in place.

“I do hope the investigation will aim to look at the facts – it shouldn’t be politically motivated,” he said. “There is a Garda inquiry going on. The level of proof is quite complicated – but the gardaí are very competent people on this.

Ethical compass

“We need to get at the facts because we need a functioning economic and monetary system. We also need to see the pitfalls that exist, particularly as there is a need for adequate regulation. We’ve got to learn the lessons of the past so we can move forward in the future.”

Asked if there was something inherently corrupt about banking, Archbishop Martin said there was something inherently corrupt “in all of us” but lamented the absence of an ethical compass at Anglo Irish Bank.

“You have to ask yourself why, in such a huge institution, did ethics not address the question of how you honestly and transparently manage a business – and that you look after monies that have been given to you in trust,” he said.

“There is a problem in human nature – there is a tendency to go in the wrong direction and that’s why we need checks and balances. We need proper regulation and transparency,” he added.