No 'gangster' apology for Fingleton
TD is cleared of breaking Dail rules over controversial former bank boss
Published 08/03/2010 | 05:00
CONTROVERSIAL former bank boss Michael Fingleton has failed in his bid to get a Dail apology for being branded a "gangster" by a TD.
The Fine Gael TD who made the statement has been cleared of breaking Dail rules.
The retired Irish Nationwide chief executive and ex-Anglo Irish Bank chairman Sean FitzPatrick were both described as "gangsters" by a TD in a Dail debate.
Fine Gael chief whip Paul Kehoe said the bankers were "two of the biggest gangsters ever involved in banking institutions". This prompted Mr Fingleton (71) to demand an apology.
But the Dail authorities have decided that the Wexford TD won't have to withdraw the statement or apologise.
Mr Fingleton stepped down from Irish Nationwide last year following a sustained campaign of political pressure over his €1m bonus and pension pot.
He sparked uproar after it was revealed he would receive a pension worth €27.6m when he stepped down from the helm after 37 years' service.
His departure came just weeks before the society unveiled its first-ever loss.
Despite going last March, he has yet to hand back that €1m bonus, which he had promised to do, and Irish Nationwide has given up any hope of securing it.
The Dail's in-house watchdog, the Committee on Procedure and Privileges, has twice discussed the complaint.
Ceann Comhairle Seamus Kirk wrote to Mr Kehoe last month, telling him that his remark was "inappropriate" but was not a breach of the privilege rules.
"The Committee on Procedure and Privileges considered the complaint and your response to that complaint at its meetings of December 15, 2009 and February 10, 2010.
"I am to inform you that while the committee found that the remark made by you was inappropriate, it was agreed, taking into account the circumstances in which it was made, that prima facie a breach of privilege did not occur," he said. "The committee now regards the matter as being closed," he added.
In his angry letter of complaint to the Dail chairman last October, Mr Fingleton insisted on an apology for the "outrageous, reckless, misinformed and extremely defamatory allegations".
"I now demand that Mr Kehoe be requested by the Chair to publicly withdraw these false allegations and to apologise to the house for his actions," he wrote.
During a debate on the National Asset Management Agency (NAMA) Bill, on October 13 last, Mr Kehoe referred to both Mr Fingleton and Mr FitzPatrick by name using Dail privilege, which gives him legal protection. Mr Kehoe contrasted the treatment of a constituent in Wexford, in danger of having his home repossessed, with that of the senior bankers.
"At the same time, Messrs FitzPatrick and Fingleton can walk away with golden handshakes, not at all worried about the people who are unable to pay their mortgages," he told the debate.
"I realise I am not talking about the NAMA Bill now but I am saying what the layman on the street is saying about Fingleton and Fitzpatrick.
"These are two of the biggest gangsters ever involved in banking institutions and because of them we have to bring forward the NAMA legislation.
"There is one law for the rich and another for the poor. That is the only way I can describe this," he said, according to the official Dail record.
In his complaint the following day, Mr Fingleton said that, under the Constitution, he was "entitled to defend my good name" and he believed the Ceann Comhairle had an obligation to uphold such rights.
"The allegations suggest that I have engaged in criminal activities, which is the most serious charge and accusation that can be made about any citizen, and to be able to do it maliciously and openly under privilege without any opportunity of defending oneself is totally and absolutely irresponsible," he wrote.