Tuesday 21 May 2019

Howlin calls on ECB chiefs to give evidence at banking inquiry

Brendan Howlin, Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform
Brendan Howlin, Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform

Sam Griffin

THE Public Expenditure Minister has called on leading European figures involved in Ireland’s bailout to give evidence to the banking inquiry.

Brendan Howlin told reporters the country’s collapse had been a result of reckless domestic policies by the previous government, but added the European Central Bank (ECB) had “constrained” Irish efforts to resolve the situation by not allowing hair cuts for some banks.

Read more: ECB chiefs set to snub our probe into bailout

“I think than any public official, domestic or European, who can contribute to a full understanding of all the circumstances that led to the extraordinary economic difficulties endured by the Irish people should make themselves available to give their evidence,” he said.

His comments follow remarks by ECB President Mario Draghi and his predecessor Jean Claude Trichet who have said they won’t engage in the banking inquiry.

Minister Howlin said a number of issues had led to the economic collapse.

Read more: Banks told to cut 'sky-high' mortgage rates

“There was domestic failure, lack of oversight, lending that wasn’t controlled, so we had a domestic crisis. But it’s also clear there was a component of that when that crisis happened, that there wasn’t a capacity of the government of the time to ensure that a bank that should fail took a haircut. That wasn’t allowed by the ECB,” he said.

“So there were two elements to this. There was a profound domestic failure of policy in the previous administration in my judgement that led to the crisis. But then there was also a contributing factor, when that crisis impacted, in that the normal economic policies that would have been to address the crisis were constrained in my judgement by the ECB.”

Read more: Blame game rages over ECB's missive

Asked about Irish Water, he said “a comprehensive package” would be announced shortly by the government which would outline how much people will be charged and how those who fail to pay will be penalised. He also indicated the issue of bonus payments will also be tackled.

On reports that a civil servant has revealed to the Public Accounts Committee details of tax avoidance by public figures including politicians and members of the judiciary, the Minister said he was aware of the news report only and that it would be “foolish to comment” until he had further information.

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