Sunday 11 December 2016

Understanding the rewritten history of the Banking Inquiry

The Banking Inquiry hasn't found a smoking gun, writes Donal Lynch, but this week it held up a mirror to Ireland

Douglas Lynch

Published 28/06/2015 | 02:30

John McCarthy, Dept of Finance
John McCarthy, Dept of Finance

Was it gallows humour or canny calculation that saw the Johnny Logan Working Group established by the Department of Finance to look for a year's funding during the lead up to the bailout? They can take away our sovereignty, the thinking might have went, but they will never take away our Eurovision glory years. Shay Healy's lyrics were perfect for the situation - "what's another year for someone who's lost it all?" A schmaltzy soundtrack was probably needed to counterbalance all that soporific financial detail. And Johnny is still big in Germany, which can't hurt when you're trying to scrounge a few more quid out of Berlin; a bowl cut to go with the begging bowl.

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The inquiry's 'Eurovision moment' came in a week which perhaps debunked one of the popular myths of the banking crisis: That the government was blindsided, that the tide was coming in until it was neck deep in water. In his evidence last week, Kevin Cardiff said that he had made "discreet" inquiries about how to access an IMF bailout as early as September 2008.

Secret contingency plans were also made to deal with Ireland being "unceremoniously shown the door" from the euro. He also recounted a conversation he had with one of his opposite numbers in another European country: "Kevin, are you working on such and such [code for a euro exit]?" they asked. "I said: 'No, of course not, how could I be working on that?' And he said: 'Well, could you have whoever is not working on it (in your office) telephone whoever who is not working on it in my office?'" Cardiff also revealed that "discreet" inquiries had been made about entering an IMF programme in 2008, well before that came to pass, and at a time when the government was sticking to ludicrous phrases like "the fundamentals are sound".

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