Business Banking Inquiry

Monday 21 May 2018

Bank inquiry to hear about fateful night of guarantee

Mary O'Rourke
Mary O'Rourke
John Downing

John Downing

Members of the banking inquiry will finally hear the first ever direct account of the night the controversial bank deposit guarantee was agreed in September 2008.

The testimony of former Allied Irish Bank chairman Dermot Gleeson on Thursday will be followed closely by the family of the late Finance Minister, Brian Lenihan, who yesterday stepped up a campaign to protect his name.

The former Minister's aunt, Mary O'Rourke, said both she and her nephew, the former junior minister, Conor Lenihan, may seek to give testimony to the committee about what Brian Lenihan had told them before his untimely death in June 2011.

Officials at Leinster House last night confirmed that executives from state property agency NAMA will tomorrow give their account of how they moved in the aftermath of the banking and property crash. They will face sustained questions about valuations which were given them by the banks and property developers, and how they arrived at new reduced valuations, and what efforts they made to get best value for taxpayers.

But Thursday's committee sessions will hear for the first time about the fateful night of September 29/30, 2008, when the government guaranteed all Irish bank deposits up to €100,000. Mr Gleeson was among a small group who attended crisis meetings in Government Buildings which led to the fateful government decision.

The events of that night have already exposed some tensions within the former Fianna Fail-led government of that period. Testimony to the committee by Central Bank governor Patrick Honohan gave rise to reports that Brian Lenihan was over-ruled on the night by Taoiseach of the day, Brian Cowen.

Last Friday Mr Cowen rejected that interpretation of what happened, though he acknowledged there were different views about the government response to the events of the time. Even before Mr Cowen had spoken last week, Mary O'Rourke and Conor Lenihan had sent a legal letter to the clerk of the inquiry signalling their wish to have an input to proceedings.

Yesterday, Ms O'Rourke made it clear they will watch proceedings closely from now on. "We wish to put the committee under notice that we will be following events and listening to what the witnesses will be saying internally about the late Brian Lenihan and we wish, if necessary, to render the recommendations of the committee more complete," she told RTE's 'Morning Ireland'.

Some politicians in Leinster House see the situation as essentially related to continuing Fianna Fail tensions that date from their time in government. Party leader Micheál Martin is also notably standing back from the issue for the present at least ahead of next weekend's Ard Fheis at the RDS.

Asked about potential conflict between Mr Lenihan's relatives' version of events and testimony from Mr Cowen, Micheál Martin showed no appetite to become involved. "We don't have a view on that at all," a spokesman for the Fianna Fail leader said.

Mr Martin's spokesman said the party supported the inquiry and felt anybody who may be helpful should be heard.

Irish Independent

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