Business Banking Inquiry

Sunday 19 November 2017

The recession's Shroud of Turin is unveiled at last

Members of the Oireachtas Banking Inquiry Committee, led by chairman Ciaran Lynch (centre), launch the report at Leinster House yesterday. Photo: Tom Burke
Members of the Oireachtas Banking Inquiry Committee, led by chairman Ciaran Lynch (centre), launch the report at Leinster House yesterday. Photo: Tom Burke
Joe Higgins.Pic Tom Burke
Nicola Anderson

Nicola Anderson

It's highly unlikely the Bedouin goatherds found every single portion of the Dead Sea scrolls, excavated in fragments along the north-west shores of the great Middle Eastern salt lake between 1947 and 1956.

The Banking Inquiry didn't have much more luck with their own recovery process. Many, many fragments of this narrative have been scattered to the four winds, are too fragile to tell a clear story - or lie tantalisingly out of reach.

Buried under the great sands of the transatlantic legal systems is the true story of David Drumm's role. Lost, perhaps forever, in the vast pitch-black caves of the old boys' network is the entire Anglo chapter.

Every punter on a bar stool knows the general gist of the yarn but holes remain - and with them, the potential for future pitfalls.

So does the report tell the final story? Of course it doesn't, the Joint Committee snappily and rather crankily conceded yesterday at the launch at Leinster House.

Wary-eyed, bleached out and exhausted after their long sojourn in the desert, they had lost two of their team of archaeologists along the way. Deputies Pearse Doherty and Joe Higgins - though they remained as members of the Joint Committee - were unable to support the final report in the end.

And so its authenticity hangs in the air - the Shroud of Turin of the great recession.

Like all historical discoveries - controversial or otherwise - everyone on the team had to have their say, give their personal take on things, tell their favourite bits of the escapade.

And so there was frantic eyebrow waggling by Fine Gael deputy John Paul Phelan when chairman Ciaran Lynch passed him over until the situation was rectified and he went on to admit that at times of the inquiry, he "could've had the chairman's guts for garters".

Certain satisfying shibboleths were regrettably debunked - there was no 'smoking gun' and no single individual to blame, the committee said. And the chaotic Night of the Bailout was "a myth" because this had been agreed ages ago and not on the night. We were not 'bounced' into a bailout - it was "inevitable".

So was the bank guarantee the right thing to do or not?

The committee froze at this question, before collapsing into a terrifyingly hollow chuckle. Eoghan Murphy tried to redeem the situation with a frown and a serious answer. But the undertones were clear - the committee either still don't know, or remain at odds on the answer to that one.

The chairman attempted to explain - if they'd been on the Titanic, they would not have tried to make the iceberg more safe, they would have tried to steer them away.

There was another moment of levity when he teased journalists for regarding the Night of the Bailout like "an aphrodisiac".

But, overall, this report of greed and recklessness with its ultimately tragic ending of homeless families, forced emigration, poverty, rough sleepers and spiralling despair, was a deeply grim one.

And it did not apportion proper blame, according to Joe Higgins - who said he refused to sign the Banking Inquiry report because he had a "fundamental difference" with the majority of committee members as to what was responsible for Ireland's financial collapse.

The Socialist TD instead presented his own unofficial 146-page 'minority report' which states that "extreme profiteering driven by corporate greed drove the property bubble and caused the crash".

It might have been wording opted for by the committee - but for legal constraints.

Sinn Féin's Pearse Doherty TD also refused to sign the report, arguing that it had been "rushed" and that this led to an "incoherent" report.

"What's really missing here is analysis," he said, adding that "the Irish people didn't expect that we would bring in bankers, developers and key politicians... ask them the questions and then put their answers into a report and call it the defining narrative."

The best hope the committee could offer is that more fragments of the story may turn up, after legal proceedings have ended.

Irish Independent

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