'Another day, another billion,' laughs Drumm
- Government wants new powers and may opt to hold Referendumn - Tapes emerge of Drumm in the hours before bank guarantee
Published 26/06/2013 | 05:00
NEW Anglo Tapes reveal bank chief executive David Drumm joking with a senior executive about the haemorrhage of funds from the institution hours before the Government bank guarantee.
As his bank teetered on the brink of collapse, Mr Drumm is heard laughing: "Another day, another billion".
He was referring to the flight of deposits out of the doomed bank before the bank guarantee in September 2008 – running at over €1bn a day at the time.
Separately, in the wake of the furore over the revelations, it has emerged cabinet ministers are weighing up a second referendum to give the Oireachtas extra powers.
The Cabinet discussed at length yesterday how best to uncover the truth and ensure there is accountability after the banking crisis that cost the taxpayer €64bn.
Although Taoiseach Enda Kenny said the Government favoured an inquiry by an Oireachtas committee, cabinet sources said there was debate about other options.
Ministers are sceptical about the prospect of a weak Oireachtas inquiry uncovering the truth.
Meanwhile, a separate batch of explosive Anglo Tapes reveal what was really going on as executives scrambled to save the stricken lender.
Anglo management strategised about how to try to keep the ailing bank afloat – and stay one step ahead of the regulators.
These tapes are being analysed by the Irish Independent investigation team and shed much new light on the hours ahead of the guarantee and the machinations involving bankers and politicians.
We plan to publish the new revelations following further scrutiny and cross-checking by the investigation team.
Early examination shows evidence of Mr Drumm's willingness to take expedient shortcuts and his use of colourful language, including his references to "Another day, another billion".
The tapes also put politicians firmly in the spotlight.
A fourth senior Anglo executive also enters the frame in these tapes for the first time.
The Anglo Tapes have generated international reaction and prompted a government rethink on how to properly investigate the saga.
Former Taoiseach Brian Cowen has said he is "very surprised" about the content of the Anglo Tapes – as it emerged that his Cabinet was unaware they existed.
The Cabinet yesterday discussed the possibility of going back to the people with a referendum on Dail inquiries, which was defeated in October 2011 and which would give TDs far-reaching powers to probe the banking crisis.
Several senior ministers from Fine Gael and the Labour Party, including Pat Rabbitte, Leo Varadkar and Joan Burton raised the prospect of an alternative way of investigating the crisis. To capitalise on the public anger generated by the Anglo Tapes, ministers discussed holding a referendum on the same day as the Seanad abolition vote in September.
"That option is still live. If we were to run it, we'd have to run it with the rest of them (Seanad abolition and the Court of Civil Appeal)," a Cabinet minister said. The attitude among ministers towards the referendum was "we lost that ourselves".
"Having heard the tapes, the public might take a different view on it. The Oireachtas inquiry won't be able to make findings against people and the reality is any tribunal or judicial one will go on for years and might even delay prosecutions further.
"People want witnesses questioned in public and on TV," another Cabinet minister said.
Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin said people on the Anglo Tapes could be called before a banking inquiry.
"There is no reason in my judgment why that shouldn't be completed for the autumn session so we can actually begin an inquiry system, call people who are on the tapes now or others to give sworn evidence," he said.
But he said any inquiry – no matter what format it takes – will have to stop if formal trials begin. "As soon as formal trials begin then obviously that module or that investigation would cease until the judicial process in concluded."
Among the other options being looked at were a Commission of Investigation or a High Court Inspectorate.
"I don't think a parliamentary inquiry will do the job and I'm not the only one who thinks that. The DIRT inquiry was successful because the banks knew they had to co-operate. However, that would be highly unlikely on this occasion and any inquiry could be buried down in court challenges," another minister said. Ministers believe the likelihood is there is not a hope an Oireachtas inquiry will be up and running by the end of the year.
Former Taoiseach Brian Cowen, who was both Finance Minister and Taoiseach during the period when Anglo expanded from a small lender into a major bank, said he "looked forward to co-operating with any banking inquiry process that is established in the future".
He said he was surprised by the content of the recordings and unaware of their existence.
Meanwhile, Taoiseach Enda Kenny's chances of striking a favourable debt deal for Ireland took a knock yesterday following new revelations about how Anglo Irish tricked the country into providing a guarantee.
Mr Kenny flies to Brussels tomorrow to lead a summit on banking supervision that is essential if we are to convince other countries to help share the cost of bailing out our broken banks.
A spokesman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel declined to comment on the tape yesterday.
In a strongly worded article in yesterday's 'Financial Times', the newspaper laments that the "diplomatic dynamite will make it harder for the government here to convince eurozone partners to lift some of the debt still burdening Irish taxpayers".
By Paul Williams, Donal O'Donovan and Fionnan Sheahan