Tánaiste says Anglo policy has not changed

 

GOVERNMENT POLICY on Anglo Irish Bank has not changed, but the Minister for Finance “is open to suggestions” to achieve the “best outcome”, Tánaiste Mary Coughlan has said.

She also told the Dáil she did not comment on “whisper and innuendo” when Opposition leaders referred to reports about the European Commission’s view on further State funding for the bank.

The Government’s policy and the attitude of the commission were raised following comments by Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan in the Dáil that an orderly wind-down of the bank and the creation of a “good bank” from its loan books would have to be considered. He also said he did not believe an immediate wind-down would benefit the taxpayer.

Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny said Mr Lenihan had gone from saying a wind-down of the bank was “never a viable option” but had now “clearly indicated” he was considering a break-up into a “good and bad bank”.

Labour leader Eamon Gilmore claimed the Government’s position on the bank was a “moving feast”, and he asked when the House would be informed of “current policy” on this “cesspit of a bank”.

Insisting that Government policy had not changed, Ms Coughlan said the cost of an immediate liquidation of the bank had been prohibitive.

A plan was under development by the bank, and the commission’s views on that plan “are being taken on board”.

A revised plan would be submitted to and analysed by the Minister, and would then go to the commission by the end of May, “at which stage the European Commission will make a decision”.

Mr Kenny said: “I understand that commissioner has a view, not yet expressed publicly, about the Government putting further money into Anglo Irish Bank. Has the Government received any soundings or advice from the commission in this regard?”

Mr Gilmore said “the bank was guaranteed and then it was nationalised. The Government has been back to the House on several occasions looking for money and more money. The last time the Government came back looking for the House to approve money for this we were told there was no question of winding down this bank. Yesterday, the Minister for Finance signalled that is now under consideration.”

Ms Coughlan said “the bank is developing a plan and it will have various options”. The “most important thing from the Government’s perspective is that any plans for the future of the bank must be in the best interests of the taxpayer”.

She added that in his comments to the House, Mr Lenihan indicated “he does not have a closed mind on the issue. He is open to suggestions on how the best outcome will be achieved.”