Tuesday 17 October 2017

Lenihan wrong to keep Cabinet in the dark over bailout

The late Brian Lenihan
The late Brian Lenihan
Tomorrow's Review magazine

John Downing and John Spain

A cabinet colleague of the late Finance Minister Brian Lenihan says he was wrong to not tell ministers about EU-IMF bailout talks.

As the nation headed towards a bailout Mr Lenihan knowingly allowed ministers to make public denials in November 2010, leading them to be accused of "lying to the Irish people".

Lenihan's actions left two government ministers, Dermot Ahern and Noel Dempsey, being shown on television repeatedly shaking their heads in unison to direct questions about whether bailout talks were under way.

In a new book, Green Party leader Eamon Ryan, who was Communications Minister at the time, recalls being told by Lenihan that there were "exploratory bailout talks", which he later found from his own contacts were in fact full-blown bailout negotiations.

Mr Ryan warned his party colleagues to keep silent but was later dismayed to see the two Fianna Fail ministers forced into making the public denials which he says also further undermined public confidence.

"I can understand how let down his Fianna Fáil colleagues felt, as he could at least have given them the full story before going out to bat in the media," Mr Ryan writes.

The book credits Lenihan's courage in facing the financial crisis while battling pancreatic cancer which would claim his

crisis at the age of 52. Several contributors argue his tough financial decisions ultimately led to Ireland's timely exit from the bailout as the current government followed his plan.

His long-time adviser Cathy Herbert, admits that the way the bailout was communicated was "badly handled" but she argues Mr Lenihan had few choices. But barrister and commentator Noel Whelan remarks that Lenihan's failure to keep ministers informed was simply wrong.

Contributors to the book include Christine Lagarde of the IMF, former President Mary McAleese, and Central Bank Governor Patrick Honohan.

• Exclusive extracts from 'Brian Lenihan - In Calm and Crisis' start tomorrow in the Irish Independent and continue in the Sunday Independent. The book is edited by his aunt and former minister Mary O'Rourke, historian Brian Murphy, and political analyst Noel Whelan. It is published on Monday by Irish Academic Press at €24.95.

Irish Independent

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