Friday 30 September 2016

Taoiseach stays silent as FF dismiss his Madrid remarks

Niall O'Connor, Philip Ryan and Colm Kelpie

Published 24/10/2015 | 02:30

Taoiseach Enda Kenny waves next to Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy (left) after a family photo at the end of the European People’s Party meeting in Madrid. Photo: Getty
Taoiseach Enda Kenny waves next to Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy (left) after a family photo at the end of the European People’s Party meeting in Madrid. Photo: Getty
Mary O’Rourke said Enda was prone to exaggeration

Major concern has been raised over the veracity of Taoiseach Enda Kenny's dramatic claims that the Army was on standby to prevent a run on the banks.

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Mr Kenny is facing growing calls to clarify his controversial statement that he was personally warned by Central Bank Governor Patrick Honohan that capital controls may be required.

The Fine Gael leader has been directly challenged over the claims, which were made during an hour-long address to an audience in Madrid on Thursday.

Fianna Fáil leader Michéal Martin said the Taoiseach was becoming a "Walter Mitty"- like character, adding that his claims about the Army being on standby were "insulting" to members of the public.

"I don't believe it ever happened. He is showing a lack of respect to people by making these claims in front of an international audience," Mr Martin told the Irish Independent .

And the defence minister during the height of the economic crisis, former Fianna Fáil TD Tony Killeen, described the remarks as "astounding".

"At no point did I have such a conversation with the Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces, the then Taoiseach or the then Finance Minister about having the Army on standby," Mr Killeen said last night.

Meanwhile, family members of the late finance minister Brian Lenihan expressed shock at the claims.

"There was never a discussion about this or a fear on my brother's part that the Army would be needed to protect the banks on foot of the economic crisis or political decision making," said former junior minister Conor Lenihan.

And Mary O'Rourke, Mr Lenihan's aunt, added: "Enda is clearly prone to exaggeration ranging from mild to wild."

Mr Kenny made the remarks during a meeting of the European Peoples' Party (EPP) on Thursday, of which Fine Gael is a member.

"The governor of the Central Bank in Ireland said to me: 'it looks like this weekend... you'll have to put army around the banks and around the ATM machines and introduce capital controls like they had in Cyprus'. So we've pulled back from that brink," he said.

Asked last night to clarify the claims, a Government spokesman said no further comment would be made. The Central Bank and Defence Forces also declined to comment.

But Finance Minister Michael Noonan added to the confusion yesterday after he said there were discussions in 2012 about devising a plan to use the Army to protect the banks.

"There were stories of a possible default in Ireland at that stage and we were looking at the consequences of that and certainly the issue of security came up," Mr Noonan said.

Irish Independent

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