President tells of nation’s shock at Anglo tapes

Higgins says institutional greed revealed doesn’t reflect core values of Irish people

President Michael D Higgins speaking at the Community garden party yesterday at Áras an Uachtaráin. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

President Michael D Higgins speaking at the Community garden party yesterday at Áras an Uachtaráin. Photograph: Cyril Byrne


President Michael D Higgins has told the world of the shock and dismay of the Irish people at the “voices from the past” heard on the Anglo tapes over the past week.

Speaking at the community garden party at Áras an Uachtaráin yesterday, he said he had often referred to the terrible damage inflicted on Irish society by the aggressive individualism and self-interest of a speculative economy.

“This week, voices from the past have been heard which serve to highlight behaviours and attitudes at the very root of that failed economic model. They do not make for easy listening,” he said.

“But let us be certain of one thing: these are not the voices of the people of Ireland. The attitudes they reveal are not shared by the people of Ireland. The behaviours they reflect are not characteristic of the people of Ireland,” he said.

The Anglo revelations have attracted attention abroad especially in Germany. According to a report in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, the governor of the Central Bank, Patrick Honohan, threatened the former Anglo executives with a prohibition and fines dependent on the outcome of the Garda investigation.

Shocked and dismayed
President Higgins said the people of Ireland were shocked and dismayed that a culture of greed and recklessness emerged in some of our institutions, a culture which was not in keeping with our core values as a nation.

“The Irish people, who are rightly recognised for their fortitude, work ethic and courage, will take us out of this present crisis. The authentic voice, spirit and values of Ireland will be restored.”

Mr Higgins said informed foreign opinion would recognise that the real story from Ireland was not the aberrant voices heard last week but the heroism of its people who were determined, not only to get through this crisis, but to secure a future that was just, prosperous and sustainable.

Also yesterday, Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin said the leading politicians and officials who dealt with the banking collapse should be able to give evidence at an Oireachtas inquiry in the autumn.

The Minister rejected the view of former Director of Public Prosecutions James Hamilton that it would be “very foolish” to embark on an inquiry before criminal trials against leading bankers took place.

‘Separate processes’
“These are two completely separate processes. A narrow range of individuals will face criminal charges,” he said. “As far as we know, those involved in political decision-making or oversight of the banking system did not commit criminal actions, but they took decisions which were ruinous in their impact. We have to establish what happened to ensure it never happens again.”

He said it was envisaged an inquiry would be broken up into modules with a short time frame for each. “There is no reason why the principals involved at Government, official and regulatory level should not be able to give evidence to an inquiry immediately it is established in the autumn.”

The Minister added that he was open to the suggestion that the referendum to increase the powers of Oireachtas committees could be rerun as early as next year. However, any such referendum could not delay the banking inquiry, legislation for which was to be enacted within weeks.

Mr Hamilton said evidence produced in an inquiry could be used by those accused of criminal offences to claim they could not get a fair trial.