Sunday 25 August 2019

Former senior civil servant Kevin Cardiff hints that the Government considered calling in the army at height of the financial crisis

Former finance chief Kevin Cardiff
Former finance chief Kevin Cardiff

Sarah Collins in Brussels

A former senior civil servant has hinted that the Government considered calling in the army at the height of the financial crisis to guard banks and cash machines.

Kevin Cardiff, who was Secretary General of the Department of Finance from 2010 until 2012 and is now Ireland’s representative on the European Court of Auditors, said he would be “surprised” if contingency planning at the time didn’t include the defence forces.

“There were various points during the crisis, in the points that I was involved and even afterwards, at which the economy and the financial system was really quite close to the situation getting very, very bad indeed, especially in terms of the transaction system,” he told reporters yesterday [TUES] in Brussels.

“It would surprise me very much if the authorities concerned with security and policing didn’t consider what they would do if there was unrest around bank machines,” he said.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said last month that he was advised by Central Bank Governor Patrick Honohan that he might have to put the army around banks and ATM machines and introduce capital controls.

“Throughout the crisis there were very serious events that could have had very profound consequences for the Irish economy, and throughout the crisis the various authorities were considering what that might mean and what their reactions had to be,” Mr Cardiff said.

“So it would not surprise me to hear that the Taoiseach had had a discussion where someone said, ‘Well, if things are really bad we might have some trouble that would require additional security.’"

He also said he would be “surprised” if he and his colleagues in the Department of Finance “didn’t have that conversation at some stage.”

“That’s not to say anyone predicted that this would happen. It is that people were considering how they might respond in those kinds of events,” he said.

Mr Cardiff, who recently gave evidence to the Oireachtas joint banking inquiry, is working on a book about his and the Department’s role in the crisis, which he said would build on this evidence.

“I hope I can produce something based on the work I did for the inquiry that members of the public will find interesting,” he said. "I hope it will give a real sense of the complexity of the issues that people are dealing with."

It will not be published until the banking inquiry has wound up its work, Mr Cardiff said, and all the royalties from the book will be given to charity.

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