Friday 22 November 2019

‘We should be grateful to Ed Honohan and his big brother Patrick’

Noirin Hegarty

The shared surname is the first giveaway. Then there’s a familiarity to the voices, a shared tone, a distinctive cadence. But the most important characteristic Central Bank governor Patrick Honohan and his brother Edmund, Master of the High Court, share is a moral authority and a clear awareness of right and wrong.

Last November when the nation was convulsed by the threat of an EU/IMF intervention in our sovereignty crisis, Patrick Honohan was the first voice to tell the people of Ireland the true situation.

After a week of prevarication and some downright lies from government, Mr Honohan went on Morning Ireland and told it like it was – we needed a bailout and we were going to get one for many billions of Euro.

Yesterday, his senior counsel brother Edmund also spoke up for the little people when he hit out at banks and other creditors who are hounding some borrowers to suicide because they cannot pay their debts.

In an strongly worded intervention he told how he saw widows in his court after “meaningless accountancy exercises” that drove their husbands to take their own lives.

Today he went even further when he identified the problem as being that the Department of Finance doesn’t know the law and the Department of Justice doesn’t know economics. so we don’t have a humanitarian scheme of debt forgiveness.

This clear and direct missile is all the more extraordinary for the fact that Mr Honohan (59) is not a judge, but a civil servant who mainly deals in procedural matters, but has a front row seat on the growing debt crisis in organising the High Court judge's list.

His intervention, like the interventions of his older brother Patrick (61) is a rare and honest insight into a bureaucratic world that intimidates and terrifies most people. He has previously drawn attention to the ludicrously high fees paid to barristers and senior counsel in the courts.

Pat Farrell of the Irish Bankers’ Federation has hit back describing the language used by Mr Honohan as ‘inflammatory’ and ‘too emotive’.

For people struggling with increased taxes, negative equity, large mortgages and unemployment thanks to the reckless lending of the banks Mr Farrell represents, this is all a bit rich. Somehow their bids for private profit turned into public debt and the nation will pay for it for generations to come.

In an era when trust has been lost in practically all institutions of state, it’s extremely important that voices like those of the Honohan brothers are listened to. And we are lucky they are in positions where they can do something about the wrongs they illuminate.

Noirin Hegarty is Editor of

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