Tuesday, 2 February 2016
Joint Committee of Inquiry into the Banking Crisis: Statements
I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Simon Harris, and thank him for his remarks. He is always interesting on this and other subjects.
I agree with what everybody else has said. I compliment the four Members who were involved, Senators Michael D'Arcy, Susan O'Keeffe, Sean D. Barrett and Marc MacSharry. I accept that they put enormous time and energy into the inquiry and that very few others would have been prepared to do so. We all accept how hamstrung and restricted they were. I agree, therefore, with what has been said on the need for another referendum to allow proper Oireachtas inquiries to take place. As Senator David Norris said, there is no point in having an inquiry if it cannot make findings of fact. I accept the 28 recommendations made by the committee of inquiry and, please God, they will prove useful, despite all of the restrictions.
As the report indicates, the regulator, the Central Bank and the Department of Finance were asleep at the wheel and, essentially, agreed with the banks. The Governor of the Central Bank was very strong in agreeing with the banks on the need for a guarantee covering all of the banks which were, of course, reckless in the way they had lent to the property sector, about which there is no doubt.
The matter about the pressure exerted by the ECB is contentious. Whether it was persuasion, of course, there was pressure to accept a bailout. We all now accept that the troika programme, involving the ECB, the IMF and the European Union, could not have been agreed to if the Government had targeted senior bondholders. Can any of us imagine, if we had borrowed €1,000 from somebody and refused to pay him or her back, the credit rating we would have had and who else would have lent to us? We must be sensible and grown up about this. In fairness, that was accepted by the Minister for Finance, Deputy Michael Noonan, and a practical view was taken. Because of the way the programmes were extended and rolled over, etc., we got the best deal for the taxpayer arising from what had happened. It will be interesting to see what the net cost will be. I accept what Senator Sean D. Barrett has said, but it might be less. The Senator might accept this, but that is a little down the road.
The banks were allowed to breach lending limits on property without fear of the consequences and no action whatsoever was taken by the regulator. We acknowledge the failure of the banks. Senior managers and boards of directors had direct responsibility. They were responsible for the collapse. Over-reliance on market funding and the continued introduction of new mortgage products also had the effect of masking the underlying problems in the construction and housing sectors. We have to learn from this and that is where the recommendations will come into play. However, we must look at the question of inquiries. We cannot go on having inquiries along these lines.