Time for atonement for the sins of Anglo
Published 01/08/2015 | 02:30
The cruel consequences of "casino capitalism" which caught our country by the throat had demanded someone must pay.
There has been a craving for criminal charges to stick since the crash. But it is important not to confuse justice with revenge.
Nonetheless, since our economy imploded, the darkest shadow of all was cast by Anglo Irish Bank. The country was scandalised as the enormity of the toll taken by toxic debt and catastrophic lending fully emerged.
There was a clarion call for someone to be collared.
Yesterday the call was answered as three former employees of the disgraced bank were given prison sentences.
The gears of justice, which can move at an infuriatingly slow pace, were always turning.
And it is fitting that three Anglo Irish Bank staff should be the first to be jailed. Their sentences ranged between three years and 18 months for conspiring to conceal or alter bank accounts being sought by Revenue.
Former Chief Operations Officer Tiarnan O'Mahoney, former Company Secretary Bernard Daly and former Assistant Manager Aoife Maguire were all found guilty on all charges.
These were serious crimes. Accountability is absolutely essential and for that reason, rather than any sense of schadenfreude, the sentences will be welcomed.
Judge Patrick McCartan made it plain that Anglo was a "very sick bank" which "took a very, very dishonest approach to Revenue".
Banking must be built on trust and honesty, and cannot work any "other way", said the judge.
We have reaped a very bitter harvest from the seeds sown by this "other way". Throughout the trial, defence counsel raised the spectre of Sean FitzPatrick, the bank's former chief executive.
Yesterday, counsel for Daly, Sean Guerin, claimed the case against Mr FitzPatrick, who has never been charged in relation to the fraud, was stronger than the one against his client.
He even asked the judge to consider "the impunity that Mr Fitzpatrick has been fortunate enough to meet in these matters".
But as has been noted, justice must be a bit like a restless flea, it will bite big and little dogs alike, and so long as there's a hunger for it, there is no impunity.
Stand-off on interest rates has to end now
The stand-off between Bank of Ireland and Finance Minister Michael Noonan has gone on for long enough.
Mr Noonan has warned that he wants action on variable mortgage rates. The bank has repeatedly ignored him. It is now time for Mr Noonan to reach for his gun and show he is not bluffing. He owes it to taxpayers who bailed out the banks and who are now being repaid with some of the highest rates in Europe.
Yesterday, Bank of Ireland reported a pre-tax profit of €743m for the six months to the end of June.
This is more than double the €327m reported at the same time last year. The bank has no excuses, and Mr Noonan is beginning to look increasingly foolish.
Adding insult to injury for homeowners, higher net interest income is a key factor in profits. The bank has said it will keep variable mortgage rates under review, but there has been no change.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny has also hinted that October's budget could be used to "deal with the banks on the issue". There have been enough warnings. It's time to act.