Tuesday 23 December 2014

Honohan gives green light to Oireachtas committee invite

Laura Noonan and Fiach Kelly

Published 17/03/2012 | 05:00

Taoiseach Enda Kenny. left, with Beam's president Matt Shattock in Chicago, Illinois, yesterday
Taoiseach Enda Kenny. left, with Beam's president Matt Shattock in Chicago, Illinois, yesterday

CENTRAL Bank Governor Patrick Honohan has agreed to appear before an Oireachtas Committee to give an update on Ireland's battle to change the terms of Anglo Irish Bank's €30bn bailout.

But most of the discussion will be held in private to allow the Central Bank boss to be more "open" with TDs and senators, the Irish Independent has learned.

The news will be a blow to the Government, which didn't want Mr Honohan to be called at all in case the proceedings could jeopardise extremely sensitive negotiations with the ECB.

The motion to call the governor was brought by renegade Fine Gael backbencher Peter Mathews, but was only passed as the other Fine Gael deputies got locked out of the committee room on Tuesday night.

Sensitivity

Many had expected the governor to invoke the independence of his office and the sensitivity of negotiations as reasons not to appear before the committee.

However, sources last night confirmed that Mr Honohan had told the committee he would attend next Friday, the deadline specified in their invitation to him.

It is understood, however, that he will not actually appear until Tuesday, March 27, as the Friday date presented certain diary difficulties. The timing means it will be after Mr Honohan meets his fellow ECB governors for their bi-monthly get-together in Frankfurt next Thursday.

Mr Honohan is likely to use that meeting to test the temperature in Frankfurt on broad ways to reform the banking debt, and he may also ask governors to sanction the postponement of a €3.1bn payment due to Anglo at the end of March.

It is expected that the governor's opening statement and opening questions from party spokesmen will be dealt with in public, before the committee goes into private session.

The fact that the more sensitive elements of the discussion will be held in private will calm some of the concerns about the potential for his appearance to derail negotiations.

Earlier this week, Taoiseach Enda Kenny appealed for them to be given time to do their jobs, invoking the old Irish proverb "is binn beal ina thost" -- "a silent mouth is sweet".

Speaking in Chicago yesterday, Mr Kenny he "cleared the air" with Mr Mathews after an early morning conversation with him the day after the finance committee debacle.

"Obviously people who sign on for membership of the Fine Gael party sign on under a set of conditions, we're facing a set of challenges for the country that are challenging and we need all hands on deck and I've nothing further to add to that," he said.

Irish Independent

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