Financial information pointing to crash ‘inaccessible’ to media

Irish Examiner editor Tim Vaughan tells banking inquiry newspaper relied on State agencies to be ‘honest and reliable’

The editor of the Irish Examiner, Tim Vaughan, has said information on the economic conditions that would lead to Ireland's crash was simply not available to the media before it occurred.

Addressing the Oireachtas banking inquiry, he also said it was important to remember the fundamental difference, in media terms, of being aware of something and being able to prove it.

Mr Vaughan, who has been editor since 2001, was one of a number of newspaper editors invited to address the committee of inquiry on the role of the media in the boom years.

“Much of the information on the cause of the crash that has subsequently come to light . . . was not only not in the public domain in the lead up to the banking crisis but was inaccessible to us,” he said. “Our reporting was influenced by the information that was available to us.”


His newspaper, unlike the Financial Times or Wall Street Journal, was not stocked full of financial experts, he said.

“We are reliant on agents of the State to be competent, professional, open, honest and reliable in what they do and say, and then we report on that.”

Conflicting views


Irish Examiner

had been publishing a residential property supplement since the 1990s and a commercial supplement since 2001.

Mr Vaughan said that while many articles published in the paper would have been reflective of what was thought at the time, there were also conflicting views on the economy put forward.

In 2005, he said, they published an opinion piece entitled: ‘Why the housing boom could collapse like a tonne of bricks’.

“Our reporting on the economy during the period in question was as honest, diverse and well-informed as was possible given the information available to us,” he said.

“If we were guilty of anything, and I believe we were, it is that we believed and accepted that institutions, such as the financial regulatory authorities, were doing their jobs and doing them competently with due diligence and with appropriate compliance policies, and with proper political and departmental oversight.”

The inquiry heard the Irish Examiner's policy on covering the economy and property sectors during the boom years was the same as its policy on all other subject matters – accurate and reflective of facts.

However, Mr Vaughan said that at the time there had been no reason to suspect a malfunctioning financial regulatory infrastructure. In addition, there was a lack of transparency within the banking sector.

"While advertising in the property section was an important and valued source of revenue during the Celtic Tiger years, as it was before that and still is, it is important to stress that it did not seek to influence editorial policy," he said.

Tom Murphy, the paper's chief executive, said the editor always "remains steadfastly independent" of outside influences when it came to editorial judgement.

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard is a reporter with The Irish Times