Thursday 18 January 2018

Lenihan refuses to hand over official documents

Michael Brennan Political Correspondent

THE Government has refused to hand over all the documentation about its controversial decision to keep Anglo Irish Bank afloat with billions of euro of taxpayers' funds.

Finance Minister Brian Lenihan offered to provide the opposition parties with assistance from his officials to evaluate any alternatives they had, or to get Anglo Irish Bank to appear before an Oireachtas committee. But, noticeably, he did not offer to give the opposition any of his department's own documentation.

He stood over the Government's decision to commit €22bn in funds to Anglo to keep it going, saying to shut it down would cost €70bn. "We would all like to see the back of this institution. It's not possible," he said. It came as Tanaiste Mary Coughlan joined Mr Lenihan in her condemnation of the "appalling" practices at Anglo Irish Bank, which is owed €155m by its former directors.

But Labour TD Pat Rabbitte said the Government had to produce "evidence" rather than "assertions" to justify its decision to keep Anglo Irish Bank in existence. He said it could cost the Government almost as much as the €39bn it planned to spend on the capital programme over the next seven years.

"Ordinary people cannot understand why the Government would want to commit almost €40bn to the 'Casino Royale' on Stephen's Green (the Anglo headquarters)," he said.

Fine Gael finance spokesman Richard Bruton pointed out that 70pc of the State's recapitalisation funds were going into Anglo -- which, unlike AIB and Bank of Ireland, had no plan to lend to small and medium-sized businesses. "It will not lend a red cent other than to those it is already supporting and to whom it has recklessly lent money," he said. Fine Gael deputy finance spokesman Kieran O'Donnell also questioned the Government's decision to support Anglo.

Mr Lenihan denied claims that he had made a "secret agreement" with the European Commission several months ago to pump the €8.3bn into Anglo, saying that the final decision had not been made until last Tuesday morning.

During a two-hour Dail session on the banking crisis yesterday, there were complaints about the fact that three former executives at Anglo -- Sean FitzPatrick, David Drumm and Willie McAteer -- had benefited from €2m in bonuses, salary payments and redundancy payments before they left.

Sinn Fein TD Caoimhghin O Caolain told the Dail that the Ernst and Young firm which had given Anglo Irish Bank's accounts a "clean bill of health" was now involved in evaluating loans for NAMA.

Mr Lenihan said he agreed that the matters required "full scrutiny" due to the dramatic change that took place after Anglo Irish Bank was taken over by the State.

"The matters are serious and will require investigation both by the accountancy bodies and the banking inquiry which is under way and which will account to this House," he said.

Irish Independent

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