Fionnan Sheahan

Tuesday 29 July 2014

The cavalier attitudes that confirmed everybody's worst fears

Published 25/09/2013|04:00

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After a week of the country's reputation being dragged through the mire, the President Michael D Higgins read the mood of the nation perfectly.

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The President stepped up to say the bank executives heard on the Anglo Tapes were the "voices from the past" who do not reflect our core values as a nation.

"These are not the voices of the people of Ireland and the attitudes they reveal are not shared by the people of Ireland and the behaviour they reflect are not characteristic of the people of Ireland," he said a week after the publication and broadcast of the first of what became known as the Anglo Tapes.

And become known the Anglo Tapes did, in virtually every corner of the world, and provoked a trail of revulsion that united ordinary people with international leaders like German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Offering an insight into the banking crisis like nothing that ever went before, it had an impact because it was so intimate and easily understood.

AUSTERITY

The first tapes were printed in the Irish Independent on the morning of Monday, June 24. Nearly five years on from the banking guarantee, the economic collapse, the bailout, the loss of sovereignty and eight austerity budgets, it appeared there was little that could shock the public.

But the sound of Anglo executives Peter Fitzgerald and John Bowe certainly did.

The recordings from inside Anglo revealed for the first time how the bank's top executives lied to the Government about the true extent of losses at the institution.

The laughing, joking, macho, dismissive, bullying, hectoring, cavalier attitude of the banking executives seemed to confirm everybody's worst fears.

The Anglo Tapes provoked a wave of anger and dragged up questions about how the banking crisis unfurled.

The slow pace of the investigations into the activities at Anglo also came under the spotlight.

But the jaw-dropping revelations continued as it emerged former Anglo Irish Bank chief executive David Drumm laughed about "abusing" the bank guarantee.

Already making waves, the tapes went global with John Bowe singing a former German national anthem in tribute to a wave of funds coming in from Germany on the back of the bank guarantee. The coverage of the Anglo Tapes went worldwide as international TV stations and newspapers reported extensively on the content and fallout.

POWERFUL

The demands for answers came to the boil. Taoiseach Enda Kenny insisted a powerful banking inquiry would be carried out.

He also pointed the finger at a resurgent Fianna Fail, claiming there was an "axis of collusion between Anglo Irish Bank and Fianna Fail and bankers".

Behind the scenes in Government Buildings, the Cabinet was considering using the outcry to go back to the voters in another referendum to seek new powers of investigation for the Oireachtas.

What was clear was the tapes were bringing fresh details into the public domain about the frenetic atmosphere at the bank as it teetered on the brink of collapse.

The efforts to rebuild Ireland's image abroad, especially through the economic recovery, appeared to be undermined.

But an understanding emerged that the sense of disgust was shared at home and abroad.

Speaking as Ireland's EU Presidency came to an end, Mrs Merkel said she found the Anglo Tapes are "very, very hard to bear – if not impossible to bear – for people who go to work every day in a normal way and earn their money.

"I really have only contempt for this," she said.

For once, the Irish people as a whole agreed with a position on banking from the German leader.

RECKLESS

The exposure continues as further Anglo Tapes become available.

The tapes displayed a casual, even reckless, approach at the bank during the financial crash.

The crude language, the vulgar phrases and the crass behaviour kept the nation astonished.

The Anglo Tapes allowed the public to hear how the money they will be paying back for generations to come was squandered.

Irish Independent

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