Wednesday 21 February 2018

Brian Cowen's blame game: Best quotes from Banking Inquiry

Former taoiseach Brian Cowen arrives to give evidence at the Oireachtas banking inquiry
Former taoiseach Brian Cowen arrives to give evidence at the Oireachtas banking inquiry

Brian Hutton, Press Association

IN A a marathon testimony to the Banking Inquiry, Brian Cowen blamed the banks, the regulators, the global economic crisis, the Opposition, a lack of power, a lack of choices and a range of other factors for Ireland's woes.

But never himself or his Fianna Fail party.

Here are some of his more memorable quotes on his first day before the parliamentary inquiry -

* Brian Cowen blames the banks - " ... the primary responsibility of the crisis rests with the banks themselves."

* then blames the regulators - "There was a lack of analysis by both the Central Bank and Financial Regulator in challenging the over concentration of risk in property."

* he blames the international crisis - "What happened then was the international crisis hit, access to funds and borrowings evaporated ... and so the vehicle that was allowing you to move the house prices to a more normalised level was taken from you."

* and also the EU/IMF for giving him no choice but to spare the bondholders - "We were left in no doubt that burning senior bondholders would mean no EU/IMF programme - it was one or the other."

* he blames a lack of power to intervene on spiralling bank lending during the boom - "I didn't have that statutory power, that is an independent regulatory power."

* and blames a lack of choices on the night of the infamous banks guarantee - "No option looked good - it was a case of taking the least worst option available."

* he blames a range of factors - "I agree that the property bubble emerged during my time and that it was as a result of a number of factors."

* but not himself - "I don't believe my policies contributed to it."

* nor does he lay any blame with his Fianna Fail-led government - "When I was there, I am happy we did what we did."

* but he admits his party isn't always good for a horseracing tip - "You couldn't get a winner in the Galway Races tent never mind anything else."

* Mr Cowen denies he was too close to property developers - "You're setting me up as some sort of guy who's promoting cowboy speculators. I'm not. I don't travel in those circles at all."

* the ex-Taoiseach has a Jeb Bush moment - "I am my own man."

* Mr Cowen sparks debate on whether or not he actually apologised - "I'm sorry that the policies we felt necessary to put in place in responding to the national crisis brought with it hardship and distress to many people."

* but again defends his leadership - "I want to say to the Irish people that the government I led dealt with the financial crisis to the very best of its ability."

* and if he had to do it all again? - "Now that we know where we are now, of course I would have a different policy, of course I would ... But the policy we had at the time was a policy that was plausible and was backed up by international peer assessment and by domestic commentary here - that's a fact."

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