Thursday 29 September 2016

Fumbling about in the dark at Bank Inquiry

Published 30/07/2015 | 02:30

'Displaying a hitherto hidden mastery of understatement, Ms Harney revealed that the government should have asked harder questions and dug deeper'
'Displaying a hitherto hidden mastery of understatement, Ms Harney revealed that the government should have asked harder questions and dug deeper'

There is something deeply ironic in the fact that the Tánaiste Mary Harney declined to participate in the discussion on the night of September 29, 2008 when the now infamous blanket bank guarantee was agreed.

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She felt that due to the fact that both she and her husband had bank shares, she ought not take part.

As a result of the fateful decisions taken that night, the whole country ended up with bank shares.

And so the Banking Inquiry continues to fumble around in the dark hoping to get some illumination on why exactly the country was brought to its knees as a result of the crash.

Displaying a hitherto hidden mastery of understatement, Ms Harney revealed that the government should have asked harder questions and dug deeper.

She also conceded that there were many mistakes made in the run-up to the crisis in 2008.

She cited undue confidence in the financial regulatory authorities, and failure to foresee the explosion of cheap credit, to mention but two.

She also said that: "One thing I am sure of is that whatever decision was reached that night, there would have been severe criticism afterwards."

Ms Harney's 'damned if we did and damned and if we didn't' take on those momentous deliberations is not quite good enough.

Politics is about responsibility and ownership of one's actions. The absence of accountability has become a running sore at the heart of Irish public life.

Ms Harney said she did not want to make a scapegoat of anyone, and insisted collectively everyone failed.

There's the rub, if everyone is to blame, then nobody is to blame.

We do not wish to see public floggings, or witch-hunts. But those who were on the bridge needed to do a lot more to steer us clear of impending disaster.

We have seen displays of hubris and hauteur as one portentous witness follows the next.

But what would play a lot better with bruised taxpayers, who have paid out billions to repair the damage they had no role in creating, would be a little humility.

Only action will solve the housing crisis

It probably didn't really require a report from the State's Housing Agency for most people to know that houses and apartments in Dublin, Wicklow and Kildare are no longer 'affordable'. And if reports were all that was required to stimulate action, the accommodation crisis would have been solved long ago.

Yet, the Government has promised to spend billions on replenishing the nation's housing stock - the question is when? There are myriad planning and infrastructural obstacles in the way before a single brick is laid.

The agency has highlighted that a minimum of 63,000 homes need to be built nationally within the next three years. About 50pc of these will be required in Dublin alone.

Affordability is, of course, a critical issue. And - surprise, surprise - as in all markets, the price is determined by supply and demand.

Last year only 11,000 homes were built - that is at least 4,000 less than required. We have lurched from one extreme to the other. For instance, in 2006 93,419 homes were built compared to 11,016 last year.

The knock-on impact on rents is also a major problem. The report demands a meaningful Government response.

Irish Independent

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