Thursday 17 October 2019

'State saving scheme wasn't suggested to me in chat at the Galway Races'

Charlie McCreevey
Charlie McCreevey

Clodagh Sheehy

Former finance minister Charlie McCreevy denied that the idea for the successful SSIA scheme had been suggested to him in a conversation at the Galway Races by the head of lending at the Educational Building Society (EBS).

He was questioned by Deputy John Paul Phelan about a letter dated August 29, 2000, signed by the head of lending, Martin Walsh.

"It appears to state that the origin of the SSIA scheme came from that conversation he had with you at the Galway Races on August 2, 2000. Is that how you remember the genesis?" asked Mr Phelan.

Mr McCreevy said he did not know who Mr Martin Walsh was.

"I can't even remember who he is. Maybe someone I know very well but it doesn't spring to mind," he replied.

Mr McCreevy said there was a general idea floating about to give some tax incentive for people to save "and then I came along with what became the SSIA scheme".

Pearse Doherty questions Charlie McCreevy at the inquiry yesterday
Pearse Doherty questions Charlie McCreevy at the inquiry yesterday

Read more: Defiant McCreevy denies his policies fuelled bubble

It was "to encourage people, in the very good times, to do what the State was doing, put money aside for an essential day", he said.

Mr McCreevy said they had not done any analysis on the scheme beforehand and "it worked very well and I'd say it's the one scheme that, you go around the country, that people remember, and most people have still kept money from the SSIA scheme".

He did not believe people saving this money had enabled the banks to make big loans to property developers.

Former finance minister Charlie McCreevy in 2003. Photo: Tony Gavin
Former finance minister Charlie McCreevy in 2003. Photo: Tony Gavin

"I don't think it had any effect on the property market," he added.

Mr Phelan suggested banks were able to lend multiples of the money saved, most of which was lent to property.

Read more: Ex-minister has convinced himself everything was fine when he left it

Asked why he did not take the advice of his own officials and carry out an analysis beforehand, Mr McCreevy responded: "Sure, I've ignored hundreds of advices from the officials in the department."

He said the scheme was for ordinary decent people and "it worked out well and people appreciated more than any other issue that was done over the last 15 years - ordinary people".

Asked about Anglo Irish boss Sean FitzPatrick, Mr McCreevy said he had known Mr FitzPatrick since 1973. He had been a classmate in UCD. He had run into him a few times socially but never played golf with him.

Irish Independent

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