Friday 21 October 2016

Confident Cardiff gives robust defence of his role in worst ever crisis

Published 19/06/2015 | 02:30

Kevin Cardiff
Kevin Cardiff

Even before the session kicked off yesterday, Kevin Cardiff sought to plead innocence as to how his evidence came to be leaked to the national media last weekend to members of the Banking Inquiry.

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As he took his seat, Mr Cardiff joked with committee members that because of the media leaks, he has amended his opening statement, but not in substance.

Referring to the leak, he quipped: "It wasn't me."

He went on to say that he checked the law that it was a crime for the committee to release his evidence but he was free to release it. This quip drew a caustic response from some committee members, including Fine Gael's Kieran O'Donnell.

But he came out all guns blazing, having slaved away on a document since last Christmas that ran to almost 400 pages.

Compared to the man who went before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) in 2011 to explain a €3.6bn accounting error, the Kevin Cardiff who appeared yesterday was a compelling and willing witness.

Back in 2011, he was under fire and it was an episode that was quickly followed by his controversial departure to Europe to become the country's representative on the Court of Auditors.

Cardiff himself gave voice to the strain he was under at the time. "We were dead on our feet. We were working for some parts of that time literally 24 hours a day, other times more figuratively," he said.

Yesterday, it was a different story.

Calm, relaxed and confident, in considerable detail he set out the defence of his time at the helm as he took aim at the banks, Jean Claude Trichet of the ECB and the dark forces who forced Ireland into the bailout.

He spoke of his and Brian Lenihan's opposition to the blanket nature of the 2008 guarantee on the night it was introduced.

He was a colourful engaging witness, referring to how he has become more socialist in recent years and also recalling Taoiseach Cowen's use of expletives.

"It would be a lie to say that I never heard the Taoiseach used the F-word, but I don't remember that specific, that specific turn of phrase," when asked did Cowen bang a table ruling out nationalising Anglo on the night of the guarantee.

In sharp contrast of previous witnesses who countless times "couldn't recall" or "didn't know", Cardiff's candour and humility was refreshing.

Over the course of four and a half hours, he repeatedly invited inquiry members to ask anything they wanted, even if the overly officious Chairman Ciaran Lynch sought to rein in the more eager inquisitors.

Cardiff returns to the inquiry next week for his second appearance to do with the 2010 bailout.

Irish Independent

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