Tuesday, 2 February 2016
Joint Committee of Inquiry into the Banking Crisis: Statements
-----for that law to be changed, and the people chose not to change the law. Those are the facts.
After two years I will try to go through the report in six minutes. The large exposures were the risk. The banks took all of the risk regarding the commercial real estate sector. It was the commercial real estate sector that brought down each institution, which in turn brought down the entire sector. We must put that into context, as I tried to do in the report, where it shows our level of exposure versus that of other countries. One other country went as far as 50% in terms of guaranteeing the assets of banks; we went to 100%, which was unheard of.
In terms of the numbers in the report and those large exposures, NAMA and others had 29 connections, with a debt of €34 billion, equivalent to almost our national debt at that stage. That was for 29 connections. The banks took those connections without a statement of affairs, with the bank taking practically all of the equity risk. The competition was intense. I heard Senator Barrett say a thousand times that banks that had stood for centuries threw that conservative approach out the window and went chasing Anglo Irish Bank.
The Department of Finance was asleep at the wheel. The Central Bank Governor, the Central Bank committees and the Financial Regulator did not do their jobs. We made a finding that they had the powers to do what was required but what they lacked most, in terms of doing what was required, was courage. I am deeply disappointed with that from a Department of Finance that had the best civil servants, going back to Ken Whitaker. If Ken Whitaker had been in the Department of Finance, the Central Bank or the Financial Regulator's office, he would have intervened. Paddy Honohan and Philip Lane would have intervened.
Another finding was that we were over the cliff, so to speak, in 2005. At that stage it was only a question of how bad the position was; we just did not know. We found that the ECB threatened to remove emergency liquidity assistance, ELA. That was put into the report and it got a good deal of coverage. In terms of what I found from that, it was the cumulative interaction between the ECB and the Department of Finance. It was their correspondence going back to October 2010. It was the language used with the Minister, Deputy Noonan, that was put on the record. We put it to Mr. Trichet in Kilmainham. It was also the obstinacy with which the ECB chose not to allow burden sharing with bondholders. However, I am glad it was put on the public record and that on two occasions the option to burden share with bondholders was put to the ECB on two occasions because almost a year later, with the liquidation of IBRC, a deal was achieved in terms of the €31 billion annual payment and the €3.1 billion in promissory notes that was shoved out into the long term. The ECB does not like the term "write-off".
In terms of who was responsible within the banks, it was the bank executives. I will not name them. We have stood by our legal team's direction and we have been very responsible as members throughout the process. We left our political jerseys at the door.
We had one crisis in the process, namely, a 750 page draft report that was presented to us. I have the ability to read quickly and I was disagreeing with it as I read through it, while asking other members about the stage they were at. At the end of the 750 page draft report none of the 11 members were prepared to sign it, which was a crisis. As members we put in place a report finalisation team. I want to record my appreciation to Senator Susan O'Keeffe and Deputy Eoghan Murphy, who stepped in at that stage, which I believe was a Saturday. I am sure Senator Barrett will agree that they put in a huge body of work.
We were only a partial inquiry.In truth we were disallowed from going near Anglo Irish Bank or from going near Permanent TSB. On a number of occasions the Director of Public Prosecutions effectively did not want us to discuss those banks at all. However, we did the best we could with the confines that were there. I thank all Members, including those who chose not to participate - I apologise, "participate" is the wrong word - who chose not to sign the report. We worked hard together. I have nothing in common politically with Sinn Féin or the socialist parties but that does not mean I am not capable of working with people from those parties.
In conclusion, I want to put one item on the record. We expect the dissolution of the Dáil tomorrow and I extend my personal thanks to the Leader of the House and the Government Whip. Before the last general election my sister was unwell and the leadership on this side of the House gave me the opportunity to travel to bring my sister from her home to Dublin. I missed many Thursday sittings and I thank the leadership here, the leadership of the Fianna Fáil benches and the Fianna Fáil Whip, Senator Diarmuid Wilson, for facilitating that. I extend a special word of thanks to my Wexford colleague Senator Jim Walsh who facilitated me in that role, on every occasion.