Friday 28 October 2016

Honohan won't detail 'Army at the ATMs' talks with Taoiseach

Published 30/10/2015 | 02:30

Governor of the Central Bank Patrick Honohan
Governor of the Central Bank Patrick Honohan

Central Bank Governor Patrick Honohan has refused to go into the detail of his conversations with the Taoiseach or reveal if these covered the Army being lined up to guard ATMs.

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Mr Honohan confirmed that he did discuss contingency plans for the possible collapse of the euro currency.

However, when he was asked if he advised Enda Kenny that the Army might be needed to protect ATMs, the governor said he wouldn't get into the detail of conversations that he had with the Taoiseach.

"I was in no doubt he had officials in other departments talking about contingencies of that type. That's not territory the Central Bank is involved in or was involved in and I think that is clear now from what he is saying now," said Mr Honohan.

Discussions did take place in 2012 and "lots of outre ideas" (unusual and outlandish) were thrown around. He added: "I think his (the Taoiseach's) recent clarifications put this story to bed really."

The meetings where Mr Kenny said such issues were discussed were kept off-diary and secret from most members of the Cabinet.

A series of secret meetings took place - not just at Government level, but also within the Central Bank - throughout 2012, as the euro appeared to be edging toward collapse.

The Irish Independent has learned that the meeting of a Government special task force was convened at the start of the summer of 2012 in the Sycamore Room in Government Buildings.

Speaking yesterday, the Taoiseach said the issue of bank security was raised during a task force discussion about the possibility of the break-up of the euro.

A question on his army comments, which he made last week during an EPP conference in Madrid, was put to Mr Kenny three times but he declined to explain or repeat them.

A spokesperson for the Taoiseach said Mr Kenny "never claimed that there was a specific one-on-one briefing" regarding a contingency plan.

They added: "Rather, the Central Bank and the Governor were part of a conversation about contingencies being put in place in anticipation of grave difficulties in the eurozone and that involved security measures around the banks."

A series of questions were asked of the Taoiseach's office yesterday, but they went unanswered.

Those present at the 2012 meeting included Mr Kenny, the Finance Minister Michael Noonan, Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin and the then Tánaiste, Labour's Eamon Gilmore.

All four were accompanied by their most senior officials.

Also invited to join them that day was the Central Bank Governor, Mr Honohan.

Sources have confirmed that the meeting was about contingency planning in case the euro fell apart. It has also been confirmed that plans were considered as to how to replace the euro with a new punt.

The 'war room' was set up to examine what "legal, logistical, financial and economic obstacles" would have to be overcome.

Such was the secrecy that those in the know began speaking in code to avoid being detected by their colleagues.

"It was very hush-hush," said one source.

Irish Independent

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