Thursday 19 September 2019

Probe into ECB’s refusal to release secret bailout letter

GAVIN SHERIDAN and TOM LYONS

THE European Ombudsman has begun a formal investigation into the European Central Bank's refusal to release the letter that bounced Ireland into the bailout.



Two senior executives from the Ombudsman travelled to the ECB's headquarters in Frankfurt in December to view the letter which the bank is refusing to allow the citizens of Ireland to see.

The decision to carry out an investigation follows a complaint against the ECB of "maladministration" by journalist Gavin Sheridan. The ECB has refused to release the letter dated November 19, 2010, for over a year on the basis that it claims it is not in the "public interest" for Irish citizens to see "candid communications" between the ECB and national authorities.

This letter is marked "secret", and its publication has been blocked at the highest levels of the ECB. The European Ombudsman asked Sheridan on Friday to provide it with any additional "observations" before making its critical decision.

The Sunday Independent and Sheridan have appealed the Department of Finance's decision to refuse this same letter to the Information Commissioner.

In correspondence, Minister for Finance Michael Noonan urged the Sunday Independent to appeal the Department of Finance's previous decision to refuse the release of the letter.

On doing so, other letters sent between the late Brian Lenihan and Jean-Claude Trichet were released, but the key letter of November 19, 2010, was again withheld.

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