| 5.2°C Dublin

Former Irish Nationwide chief offers muted apology for crisis

DISGRACED banker Michael 'Fingers' Fingleton has apologised for costing the taxpayer billions of euro.

The former Irish Nationwide boss admitted to a "sense of remorse" over the State bailout for the failed institution.

But he refused to shed further light on his failure to repay, as promised, a €1m bonus he received from the lender.

The comments were his first public utterances on the banking crisis since it erupted two years ago.

They came after Central Bank Governor Patrick Honohan indicated the final of cost of Irish Nationwide's bailout could rise to more than €3bn. Under Fingers' stewardship, the building society recklessly loaned vast sums of money to developers during the property boom.

In an interview at Dublin Airport after getting off a flight from Spain, he was asked if he had remorse.

"Of course I have, of course I have, like anybody else, I have indeed," he said.

But Fingleton, who led Irish Nationwide for almost 30 years, would not comment on whether he felt personally "guilty".


"I've already made my comment. That's it. I can't say anymore. Thank you," he told RTE.

Fingers also refused to say if he would refund the €1m bonus he received just weeks after the Government introduced the €440bn State bank guarantee in September 2008.

"I've already made a full public statement on that, that you're fully aware of," he said.

When the Herald called to his house today, there was no answer at the door.

Previously, the ex-banker said he was entitled to the payment.

However, he said he wanted to repay it "because of the effect on my family with a continuing 24-hour media siege on my home".

The money has yet to be returned, despite a number of requests from Irish Nationwide.


Fingleton indicated he will give a full account of what happened at Irish Nationwide during the boom at the forthcoming banking inquiry.

"I've already co-operated -- and I'll continue to co-operate in every way I can," he said.

He also defended Irish Nationwide's role in the controversy over secret Anglo Irish Bank loans to former Anglo chairman Sean FitzPatrick (pictured right).

"That's a matter under investigation, that'll be made very clear in due course, that we had no responsibility whatsoever for those loans," he said.

Irish Nationwide is transferring €8.5bn of its €10bn commercial loan book to NAMA.

The agency applied a 58pc discount to Nationwide's first batch of property loans.

A massive 72pc reduction was applied to the second lot.

Fingleton resigned as chief executive of Irish Nationwide in April 2009 after it emerged he had received the €1m bonus at a time when the country's finances were in disarray.

See Page 14