Thursday 18 January 2018

Three years has become a long time in politics for the 'only honest man in power'

IT'S been a bit of a fall from whiter than white. Patrick Honohan was practically the one person in a position of power in Irish public life who came out of the snowy November in 2010 with his reputation enhanced.

Times have changed for Mr Honohan, and he was greeted with jabbing fingers, tuts, eyes rolled to heaven and dark mutterings under people's breath when he appeared before the Oireacthtas Finance Committee yesterday. Quite a change.

The governor of the Central Bank was hailed as the only honest man in power when he went on 'Morning Ireland' on November 18, 2010, confirming what everyone suspected was happening – yet the Government was denying. We were heading for a bailout.

Mr Honohan was feted by the then opposition of Fine Gael, Labour and others. Former finance minister Brian Lenihan, however, contemplated sacking the professor for what he saw as the rug being pulled from under him.

Almost three years later, it seems attitudes towards Mr Honohan have changed, and he was given a rough ride by TDs yesterday.

Their frustration boiled over after the Central Bank released a statement this week saying it would not be making complaints to the gardai or the Director of Corporate Enforcement, although Mr Honohan said this may be reviewed.

It also stemmed from the slow progress on the mortgage crisis, the main reason Mr Honohan was before the committee yesterday.

Fianna Fail's Michael McGrath raised the Central Bank's position on the tapes first, followed by Fine Gael's Kieran O'Donnell and Sinn Fein's Pearse Doherty, who competed with each other to see who could become the rattiest and most outraged with the governor.

At one stage, as Mr Honohan explained himself, Labour TD Arthur Spring muttered "Jesus Christ" to his colleague Kevin Humphreys .

Joe Higgins also questioned the governor, while Shane Ross bizarrely walked into the committee room holding an 'Irish Vintage Tractors 2014' calendar under his harm.

It certainly wasn't Hugh Hefner's latest offering, and we're not sure how many vintage John Deeres and Massey Fergusons roam the leafy streets of Dublin South, but Mr Ross insisted it was pressed into his arms by a well-wisher.

But Mr Honohan was chugging along himself, and claimed the Anglo Tapes didn't provide a "smoking gun" which would suggest criminality.

He also admitted the Central Bank had kicked around the suggestion of a new criminal law for "reckless misconduct in the management of a bank", and the astonishing detail that the Central Bank hadn't listened to the rest of the tapes, apart from what appeared in the Irish Independent.

There were too many, and it would be risky to mount a huge trawl not knowing what it might yield.

"It's like a problem of a giant haystack and we haven't solved the haystack problem," he said.

"God help Ireland," said one TD leaving the committee room.

A far cry from November 2010 indeed.

Irish Independent

Promoted Links

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Promoted Links

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News