Sunday 19 November 2017

Devil is in detail of anglo irish's dramatic collapse

ANGLO REPUBLIC: Inside the Bank that Broke Ireland By Simon Carswell

Laura Noonan

Laura Noonan

THREE years after the dramatic decline of Anglo Irish Bank became from page news, the battered institution's demise and €25bn rescue remains a national fixation that is simply without precedent.

For Simon Carswell's 'Anglo Republic', the public's enduring obsession presents a natural advantage that can't be easily dismissed, since people are clearly interested in Anglo in a way that they have never been interested in any other Irish company.

But that same national fixation also gives rise to the book's biggest challenge -- an unprecedented amount of newsprint has already been dedicated to Anglo, what can there possibly be left to say?

And are we not all Anglo'd out anyway?

There will always be news junkies and banking junkies who will devour a book like 'Anglo Republic' -- but for the more mainstream market the test is whether Carswell has a new story to tell, or new insights into a story we already know so well.

New stories are a tough demand for a topic such as Anglo, where hoards of reporters are following events on a daily basis; what was an exclusive when Chapter X was written could very well have been revealed in daily reporting before the book actually came out.


Nonetheless, Carswell does offer some new insights. The lavish Anglo party to boost staff morale just before the bank was nationalised, for example, or the most complete account to date of the story behind the departure of 'new Anglo' finance boss Maarten van Eden.

The book's real strength, though, is the new insights that Carswell delivers.

Its intimate accounts of key moments, such as Miriam O'Callaghan telling Carswell that former Financial Regulator Pat Neary "doesn't know what he's in for" minutes before his infamous 'Prime Time' grilling in 2008.

There's also previously unreported emails between characters at the centre of the unfolding drama and minute details of encounters, such as Anglo director Frank Daly taking a board conference call while en route to Waterford with his dog sitting alongside him in his car.

And it's through such stories that readers enjoy the rare privilege of feeling like they're actually there, watching from the most intimate vantage point as some of the Ireland's most historic events unfold.

Carswell has crafted a worthy and necessary book about a bank and a financial crisis, which becomes an infinitely more readable tale about people and their (usually unwinnable) battles against the adversities they were faced with.

That is the book's greatest accomplishment and the reason that people should buy it, even if they are all Anglo'd out.

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