Sunday 20 January 2019

Trichet says letters to Lenihan should not be published

The late Brian Lenihan. Photo: Getty Images
The late Brian Lenihan. Photo: Getty Images

Thomas Molloy

FORMER European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet said letters that he wrote to former Finance Minister Brian Lenihan in the run-up to the 2010 bailout should not be made public.

His comments follow a clamour from some Irish politicians and economists who believe the letters sent to Mr Lenihan contained threats that somehow forced him into a bailout. They now want the letters published.

Weekend media reports also suggested the letters contained threats but did not provide any quotations or evidence to back-up the assertions.

Without seeing the letters, it is impossible to know whether the ECB was simply expressing concern about the safety of the tens of billions of euro the bank pumped into the Irish economy or something more sinister. No media outlet, government minister or ECB president has ever published the letters and the Department of Finance and ECB's freedom of information units have declined to release the letters.

Confidential

Mr Trichet told CNN that the letters were "confidential at the moment they were sent". He added that Brian Cowen and Mr Lenihan knew they needed help before they sought a bailout in November 2010.

"I think that the overall sentiment of all the responsible persons in Ireland, those that were at the helm, was that they really were needing some help in terms of help of the IMF and other Europeans," Mr Trichet said in the interview which was aired yesterday.

Finance Minister Michael Noonan has said he read a letter and this "threatening" letter should now be released. He added that it will probably feature in the next banking inquiry. UCD economists Karl Whelan and Colm McCarthy have also called for the letter's release.

Reports say the letter threatened the withdrawal of emergency liquidity assistance to Ireland if the previous government refused to accept the bailout without burning bondholders.

Mr Lenihan told a BBC Radio 4 documentary that the ECB had threatened him both verbally and by correspondence about what would happen if he refused. He did not provide specifics.

Irish Independent

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