Friday 26 December 2014

Finance Minister had 'no idea Anglo phone recordings existed'

Fiach Kelly Political Correspondent

Published 25/06/2013 | 06:30

Enda Kenny at an EU meeting in Dublin Castle yesterday
Enda Kenny
Michael Noonan, Minister for Finance

FINANCE Minister Michael Noonan had no idea the Anglo tapes existed until he read yesterday's Irish Independent.

Mr Noonan – who was an opposition backbencher in 2008 but made several speeches on the banking crisis at the time – said he "always believed that Anglo had a lot to answer for".

His comments came as the Anglo tapes sparked outrage across all political parties. There were fresh calls for a comprehensive banking inquiry, from the highest levels of Government to the opposition benches in the Dail.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said he understood the "outright anger" the tapes provoked among the public and said the Government must get any banking inquiry right.

Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore called the tapes "shocking" and said they underlined the need for a banking inquiry.

HIGHER

Mr Noonan, who was in Brussels yesterday, was asked about the initial request for €7bn, even though bank executives knew they would need more.

"I kind of worked out that was happening," he said. "I remember Brian Lenihan coming into the Dail and saying to us €7bn; then a couple of weeks later it was a higher figure, and a couple of weeks later it was a higher figure again."

Mr Noonan (right) also said he was not aware bank conversations had been recorded until he read the Irish Independent.

He also said the inquiry legislation would be passed before the Dail summer recess "so the inquiry can be established immediately, which is quite timely".

Fianna Fail finance spokesman Michael McGrath said a "comprehensive" inquiry was needed, while Sinn Fein's Pearse Doherty said "the Government's foot dragging on the banking inquiry is unacceptable".

A string of TDs from all parties echoed calls for an inquiry.

Mr Kenny led expressions of political outrage after the Irish Independent revealed the explosive tapes which showed how the bank's top executives lied to the former government about the true losses at the institution.

Mr Kenny said he did not want to prejudice any court cases but added that the Government wanted banking inquiry legislation to be passed by the summer.

This would pave the way for a banking inquiry to begin in the autumn.

It will then be decided if the Oireachtas Finance Committee or the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) – or a different body entirely – will carry out the investigation.

Mr Kenny also criticised the previous government which he said was "fuelling the construction economy where there was very light-touch regulation".

"And the legislation that is being put through by the Government we hope will be concluded by the summer recess."

He added: "Believe you me, I understand the rage and the anger of so many people who have been affected by all of this."

He also said the Anglo tapes – along with rafts of other documents – could be part of the inquiry.

Mr Gilmore, who is in Luxembourg on EU business, said he was "shocked" by what he had read.

DAMAGING

"I think that what we have heard on these tapes underlines the necessity for there to be an inquiry into what happened prior to the bank guarantee about who said what to whom, about who was influencing who, about how very key and damaging decisions were made," he said.

"We need to get the bottom of how the decisions were made and what was behind them. Remember that these decisions have cost the Irish taxpayer billions of euro, they have resulted in the Irish people having to bear a huge amount of pain over the last five years and they have resulted in the present Government having to take very painful decisions in order to clean up that mess."

Jobs Minister Richard Bruton said the tapes were a "reminder of the failures that occurred".

Education Minister Ruairi Quinn said the "whole country is very angry at the way in which our economic sovereignty was forfeited", adding that the revelations added "a new chapter to the story".

Irish Independent

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