Sunday 25 September 2016

IMF's Ajai Chopra has done Ireland a favour

Published 20/04/2015 | 02:30

Ajai Chopra
Ajai Chopra

For many Irish people, photographs of Ajai Chopra walking past a beggar in the centre of Dublin recall those dark days we would rather forget. But the candour of the International Monetary Fund's senior executive is welcome and potentially helpful.

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Mr Chopra was a central figure in Ireland's bailout in November 2011. And his stinging criticism of the European Central Bank's conduct at that time adds to Irish people's misgivings about the Frankfurt-based bank.

His comments come at a pivotal time in the parliamentary banking inquiry's work, as the TDs and Senators prepare to question political leaders and senior Government officials about the lead up, and response, to the banking system collapse in autumn 2008. The high-profile politicians have already made it clear that they will attend the inquiry and try to answer all the questions which arise. Despite persistent scepticism about the value of this inquiry, the people are entitled to know precisely why things went so horribly wrong, and what information led to the official responses to those series of financial crises which cost the country so dearly.

We know that this inquiry takes place in a highly charged political atmosphere, less than a year, at most, from a general election. We rely upon inquiry chairman Ciaran Lynch and his colleagues to steer an even and non-partisan course aimed at establishing the facts.

But the dangers of potential bias do not stop at party issues. We note that many of those who were central to the events from autumn 2008 onwards will be able to tell their story and, if necessary, defend their actions.

The late Brian Lenihan, who died in June 2011, is of course an exception here. Everybody will be sensitive to warning calls from his aunt, Mary O'Rourke, and brother, Conor Lenihan, that his reputation must be protected.

They say they have sent a legal letter to the committee seeking a right of reply to any criticisms which might be levelled against the late Finance Minister. It is important that the committee uphold this right.

But all of us need to hear directly from those who were responsible for our fate in those difficult times. It is a vital part of ensuring these mistakes are never repeated.

Irish Independent

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