German media fury at jibes of Anglo bankers
Fears of anti-Irish backlash on any bank deal
Well-placed German government sources said Chancellor Angela Merkel was more than capable of distinguishing between the five-year-old remarks of Irish bankers and the views of the Irish Government. Photograph: Reuters
On Tuesday morning Dan Mulhall, the Irish Ambassador to Germany, gave an upbeat assessment of Ireland’s economic recovery and its EU presidency on Germany’s equivalent of RTÉ Radio 1. Just 24 hours later, he had a far less pleasant task: sending an eye-watering press review to Dublin. After five largely successful years of staying under the radar of Germany’s powerful and feared Bild tabloid, the Anglo tapes had catapulted Ireland right on to page one.
“Broke Irish bankers mocked German customers” read the headline over an article saying Anglo executive bankers “made fun of the naivete of German savers”, described them as “Scheissdeutsche” and “intoned the first verse of Deutschland, Deutschland Über Alles”.
For years the tabloid, read by eight million Germans daily, has berated “broke” Greeks, castigated “crooked” Cypriots and other bailout candidates. Ireland, if mentioned at all, usually got neutral to positive coverage.
Yesterday marked the end of this kid-glove treatment, and not just there.
‘Laughing into the abyss’
The Frankfurter Allgemeine daily set aside its usual conservative restraint to propose putting everyone associated with the Anglo meltdown into a large sack, then “beating them with a club until the screams of pain are unbearable”. It devoted two additional news articles to Anglo, headlined “Broke Irish bankers conned the state” and “Laughing into the abyss”.
Germany’s Handelsblatt business daily headlined its report: “Billions ‘pulled out of arse’ ” and added: “It remains to be seen if the top floor of Anglo consciously misled the Irish leaders or worked with them secretly to keep the booming property market alive.”
As the morning wore on, some lone voices in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s ruling Christian Democrats (CDU) came out to attack the ex-Anglo manager’s remarks on Germany as “unacceptable”. But senior figures, in the parliamentary party and in the chancellery, decided not to aggravate matters with loose talk. “Bild likes to play up the anti-German angle if it can: we saw that in its coverage of Greece, ” said one senior CDU official, “so it really isn’t worthwhile pouring oil on the flames by saying anything further.”
Well-placed German government sources said Dr Merkel was more than capable of distinguishing between the five-year-old remarks of Irish bankers and the views of the Irish Government. But for Taoiseach Enda Kenny there is an awful irony to the timing of the Anglo leaks. For a year he has pressed EU leaders, chiefly Dr Merkel, to deliver on promises from last June’s summit to allow recapitalisation of banks, including in Ireland. Failure to deliver on such promises soon would, he said in Vienna last week, undermine the credibility of European leaders’ promises. But now, with the German media primed for an anti-Irish backlash on any bank deal, Mr Kenny may be relieved that Dr Merkel’s advisers yesterday dismissed the idea of either Ireland or its bank recapitalisation hopes being discussed today in Brussels. “One can have different opinions to the [Anglo] bank remarks . . . but there is no need for any decisions on Ireland at present,” said a senior German official on EU affairs.
Since last June’s summit German officials have been at pains to point out that slow progress on bank recapitalisations was nothing personal against Ireland.