Wednesday 23 May 2018

'FG golf classics nothing like FF's Galway tent'

Kenny says Fine Gael didn't have Fianna Fáil's links to developers

Taoiseach Enda Kenny with Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald and Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan for a garda passing out parade in the Garda College in Templemore, Co Tipperary, yesterday.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny with Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald and Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan for a garda passing out parade in the Garda College in Templemore, Co Tipperary, yesterday.

Clodagh Sheehy and John Downing

Fine Gael golf classics were not like the Galway tent and the party did not have the same relationships with developers as Fianna Fáil, Taoiseach Enda Kenny has insisted.

"Certainly not," he told Deputy Joe Higgins, who had drawn comparisons between Fine Gael running fundraising golf classics and the famed Fianna Fáil fundraising initiative.

Mr Kenny told the Banking Inquiry that most of Fine Gael's fundraising "came from our national draw and still does, from ordinary members of the party and supporters around the country".

The Taoiseach laid the blame for the economic crash firmly on the Fianna Fáil-led Government. He said tighter management of public spending would have moderated economic overheating and left the public finances in a much stronger position in terms of protecting living standards.

"The lion's share of the damage to the Irish economy was the fault of domestic economic and financial mismanagement," said Mr Kenny. The Taoiseach said the dreams of hundreds of thousands of families had turned to nightmares as "stability was replaced by policy recklessness and regulatory failures".

He continued: "We have learnt the hard way that being part of the euro presents not just opportunities, but huge domestic challenges."

Mr Kenny also dismissed suggestions he had discussed the recapitalisation of Anglo Irish Bank with one of the executives of the bank just weeks after the bank guarantee.

Asked by Sinn Féin's Pearse Doherty about two phone calls to Matt Moran of Anglo Irish Bank on November 17 and 18, 2008, Mr Kenny said he had "no conversation of any substance" with Mr Moran.

He also denied discussing the recapitalisation of the bank with Mr Moran.

"I have no recollection of informing Mr Moran of anything of substance insofar as either Fine Gael's propositions or whatever else was going on."

He told Deputy John Paul Phelan he heard about the bank guarantee in the early morning of September 30, 2008 in a call from the late Finance Minister Brian Lenihan.

He responded: "We have to have a bank system because its the lifeblood of the economy."

Mr Kenny told the inquiry: "Obviously, Fine Gael took the view that we would support it for that reason. We took the view that there's a real emergency here."

The Taoiseach was appearing before the Banking Inquiry to answer questions about his time as leader of the opposition during the economic crash.

He said that by 2007 "an uncompetitive, bloated, over- borrowed and distorted Irish economy had been left at the mercy of subsequent international events".

This had been "without the safeguards, institutions and mindset needed to survive and prosper as a small, open economy inside the euro area".

Mr Kenny accused the previous government of "abandoning the competitive, export-oriented, flexible economic model needed to prosper inside the Economic and Monetary Union".

The Taoiseach criticised the ability of the then Minister for Finance to introduce or extend tax breaks for favoured sectors of the economy, particularly property and construction.

He also attacked the "excessively close relationship between the Central Bank and the Department of Finance at the time" and the corporate funding of political parties.

Mr Kenny said there was "no requirement to conduct and publish cost-benefit analyses on tax shelters and major infrastructure projects and to subject all major expenditure programmes to regular review".

There was an absence of clear enforceable rules for jobs that could be taken up in the private sector by former ministers, advisers and civil servants and no policing of conflicts of interest.

There was also a lack of transparency and rules regarding the lobbying of public officials by special interests and an absence of effective planning regulation.

Earlier, Tánaiste Joan Burton said the Labour Party's opposition to the bank guarantee because of the potential liability to the State had been vindicated.

She said Ireland had become locked into a cycle that led to the bailout, and the Fianna Fáil-led governments must accept the main role in the crash.

"Like an athlete on steroids" is how Ms Burton described the economy from 2002-2007.

Light-touch regulation "facilitated the banks in their reckless behaviour", she said.

Former Labour Leader Pat Rabbitte admitted he had never considered the possibility that the banks might fail.

Irish Independent

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