Anglo tapes have damaged Ireland’s reputation - Kenny
German chancellor Angela Merkel says she regards information disclosed in tapes with contempt
Taoiseach Enda Kenny at a news conference at the end of a European Union summit in Brussels today. Mr Kenny said today that tapes of conversations between executives at Anglo Irish Bank show ‘the contempt and the arrogance and the insolence’ of senior personnel working in the lender. Photograph: Reuters
Taoiseach Enda Kenny has called on people who know what lay behind the Anglo Irish Bank debacle to “stand by the Republic” and come forth with the information they hold to the looming banking inquiry.
Mr Kenny said the affair has undermined Ireland’s reputation and said he agreed with German chancellor Angela Merkel who said overnight that the information disclosed in the Anglo tapes was damaging for democracy. Mr Kenny is due to meet Ms Merkel on July 3rd.
“They show the contempt and the arrogance and the insolence of senior personnel working in that bank towards everybody, towards government, towards citizens, the impact on every company, every community, every family in our country,” the Taoiseach said.
“They shine a bright light on the vulgarity of what went on there, which is a direct contradiction to the language of the critical and aesthetic language that what went on around the time of the bailout. This has damaged our reputation.”
In Brussels at the end of the EU summit, the Taoiseach said the tapes came as a thunderbolt and underlined the requirement for a parliamentary inquiry.
“I want to see a position where through the parliamentary inquiry and that those with information and knowledge of the facts can come forth and tell the truth of what they know,” Mr Kenny said.
“It is time for those privileged people who worked that system who controlled that system, who were that system, to stand by our Republic.” Answering a question in Irish, Mr Kenny said there were people who had particular information about what went on. While it was possible that such people did nothing wrong themselves, the Taoiseach said he hoped people would come forward to the inquiry.
“As I said on so many occasions now, as Taoiseach of the country, if I meet the town clerk from Enniscorthy notes are taken of what’s happened here,” he said.
“This was the single biggest financial transaction ever made in history of our State and there are no papers of any consequence relevant to that in the Department of the Taoiseach.”
At a joint press conference with European Council president Herman Van Rompuy and EU Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso, Mr Kenny said all leaders at the summit understood that the tapes were recorded in the past as far as Ireland was concerned.
“We do need to be able to examine the culture of the so-called Tiger years which led to this situation of a toxic nexus between the banking world and the world of government and senior personnel. In that sense we have worked very hard to rebuild our integrity and our reputation abroad. That’s happened.
“We now need to move on with processing the legislation in our own country so that a public inquiry, so that a public investigation can take place through that, in parallel to the criminal proceedings which are moving independently through the court system where a number of charges have been prepared against certain personnel.”
Asked whether his own language in respect of the connections between banks and the previous administration meant the atmosphere around banking inquiry would be too politically charged, he said the objective was to conduct an impartial investigation in a calm manner.
“But the point is when you speak to people who have been affected by the carry of these people that’s where the rage and the anger and the frustration is so evident,” he said.
“As I said for people who worked the system, who controlled the system, who were the system they have a lot to answer for. I can’t comment on the outcome of any court cases that may emerge, that will be followed through, that’s a matter independently for the courts.
“But I do think that between this and then there is the need for an opportunity for the parliamentary system and for the elected politicians now to be able to have an opportunity for people to speak their minds and speak the truth.”
Earlier Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin said there was no reason why politicians and others centrally involved in the bank guarantee should not give evidence to an inquiry in a public forum this year.
“For those people to be required to swear an oath and answer questions truthfully before the Irish parliament I think will be a huge advance.”
He also rejected Fianna Fáil leader Mícheál Martin’s claim that a parliamentary inquiry could not be unbiased, saying “some people will want to kick this down the road as far as possible”.
Last night the German leader said the disrespectful tone towards the wider society appeared to be a common problem in the banking community - in Ireland, Germany and elsewhere.
“I have nothing but contempt for this,” she said. “The tone seems to be similar across all banks.
“It is for us a huge challenge to convince people who get up every day and every day do their work and always pay their taxes, do everything, even show solidarity with other people who are weaker. All of this is destroyed by that and so I have nothing but contempt for that,” she said.
“For people who go to work every day and earn their money, it is very, very difficult to understand, if at all.”
Transcripts of telephone conversations from 2008, published by the Irish Independent, between bankers at Anglo Irish Bank have caused outrage in Ireland and beyond in recent days.
The German media has reacted badly to excerpts of the Anglo tapes mocking Germans and singing “Deutschland Uber Alles”.
In the tapes senior executives at Anglo made light of the Irish government’s decision at the height of the global financial crisis to guarantee their liabilities and talk about demanding “moolah” - slang for money - from the Central Bank.
The Bild tabloid put the story on its front page on Wednesday under the headline: “Broke Bankers Mocked German customers”. “It is a real damage to democracy...for everything we work for,” she said.
Chancellor Merkel drew parallels between the Anglo Irish Bank tapes and “The Raspberry Kingdom”, a play running in Berlin based on post-crisis interviews with bankers in Frankfurt, Dublin and other capitals.
The government offered a blanket guarantee to all Irish banks, including Anglo in 2008 to keep them operating.