Judging Bertie Ahern
Sir, – The eight articles in The Irish Times (Weekend Review, May 5th) under the title “Judging Bertie Ahern” provide some interesting insights and opinions about his legacy. However they all imply that it was a failure of oversight, especially related to the banking sector, that left Ireland exposed when the international economy collapsed. In fact Bertie Ahern was fully responsible for changing the legal framework which had regulated bank lending for hundreds of years.
Mr Ahern was Taoiseach and Brian Cowen was Minister for Finance when the Government brought in the 2007 amendment to the Asset Covered Securities Act 2001 which widened the scope of the “covered bond market” in Ireland.
These legislative changes, introduced at the peak of the boom, allowed banks to use commercial property loans as collateral for the bonds for the first time, enabling them to borrow more in the markets.
Heavy borrowing in the global markets was one of the causes of the banking crisis and ultimately led to the government bank guarantee and the EU-IMF bailout. This legislation followed intensive lobbying by the Irish Bankers Federation, David Drumm, then chief executive of Anglo and the then chief executive of the Bank of Ireland, Brian Goggin.
Similarly, measures to control the property market introduced following recommendations by Peter Bacon, including higher rates of stamp duty and limiting interest deductibility for investors, were reversed in 2001 by the Ahern/Cowen government, further fuelling the house price boom. Again the construction sector was heavily involved in lobbying for these changes.
Cliff Taylor, in his article, quotes Bertie Ahern’s excuse to the Oireachtas banking inquiry in 2015 that if “hindsight was foresight, I’d be a billionaire” implying that he was a helpless spectator to unforeseen and unforeseeable events. The record shows that Bertie Ahern was a prime mover of the legislative changes that drove the property boom. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Are women still being written out of Irish history? All those in Geraldine Kennedy’s Belfast Agreement pantheon, set out in The Irish Times (“Judging Bertie Ahern”, Weekend Review, May 5th), are men.
Surely she should have included Mo Mowlam, Monica McWilliams and Bronagh Hinds? Good to include Albert Reynolds – but John Major has to be there alongside him. – Yours, etc,