Tuesday 20 March 2018

Brian Cowen says he'll testify at banking investigation

But former executives of bailed-out banks refuse to commit themselves

FORMER Taoiseach Brian Cowen
FORMER Taoiseach Brian Cowen
FOLLOWING THE PAPER TRAIL: Alex White, above, and John McGuinness, are neck-and-neck in the running to head up the inquiry into the banking crisis
FOLLOWING THE PAPER TRAIL: Alex White, and John McGuinness, above, are neck-and-neck in the running to head up the inquiry into the banking crisis


FORMER Taoiseach Brian Cowen has said he will give "whatever assistance" he can to the inquiry into the banking crisis, once it has been established.

While the Government has yet to assign to a Dail committee the task of investigating the events of before and after the night of the infamous bank guarantee, the Sunday Independent attempted last week to contact several of the potential key witnesses in an effort to determine their willingness to co-operate with the forthcoming probe.

Of the 14 bankers, politicians and senior civil servants contacted, just three others, apart from Mr Cowen, were prepared at this point to give an undertaking to assist the Dail with its investigation.

Mr Cowen said: "I have at all times stated since this was first mooted that I am of course available to any forum the Dail sets up, to be of whatever assistance I can be in respect of any inquiries they want to pursue."

Asked if he would make available any potentially relevant documentation that he might have in his possession, Mr Cowen replied: "I am not in possession of any relevant documentation that is not in (available to the) Government."

Asked if he would accept the findings of the banking inquiry once these were factually based, the former Taoiseach said: "I cannot pre-determine my views on any outcomes to an inquiry that is not yet established."

Responding to the same set of questions through a general statement issued by the Department of Finance, former secretaries general Kevin Cardiff and David Doyle indicated their willingness to "co-operate fully".

However, outside the departments of the Taoiseach and Finance, the response from the ranks of Ireland's former senior bankers was less than enthusiastic, with only one -- former Bank of Scotland (Ireland) chief executive Mark Duffy -- confirming that he would appear as a witness if called.

"Based on the information currently available, and assuming my contribution was sought, I would be happy to co-operate," Mr Duffy said.

Asked if he would accept the findings of the banking inquiry if he was called, Mr Duffy replied: "It is impossible to predict the findings of an inquiry whose terms have not yet been established.

"However, I cannot foresee any circumstances where I would object to the findings of any such inquiry."

Former Bank of Ireland chief executive Brian Goggin pointedly declined to engage with this newspaper when we approached him last Wednesday, refusing even to accept a written copy of our questions.

"I have no interest in assisting you or the paper you write for," Mr Goggin said as he went about the business of applying a fresh coat of paint to the exterior of his home in Foxrock, south Dublin.

Meanwhile, Bank of Ireland's former chairman Richard Burrows refused to respond personally, instead choosing to instruct his secretary at British American Tobacco (where he now serves as chairman) to forward our questions to his former employer for answer.

Bank of Ireland declined to make any comment on the matter.

Former AIB chief executive Eugene Sheehy emailed the Sunday Independent last Friday, saying simply: "I regret to advise that I will not be responding to your questions."

Former AIB chairman Dermot Gleeson also refused to address the question of whether he intended to attend as a witness at the banking inquiry, emailing to say: "I do not wish to correspond with you on these matters."

Neither Anglo Irish Bank's former chief executive David Drumm nor its former chairman Sean FitzPatrick responded to requests for comment on the matter of their willingness to co-operate with the banking inquiry.

Efforts to contact former Irish Nationwide chief executive Michael Fingleton and former financial regulator Patrick Neary for comment also proved to be unsuccessful.

Mr Fingleton, for his part, was said by his housekeeper to be away until the end of this month.

Sunday Independent

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