Issue 2 - 2024 200dpi

12 February 2009 Edition

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Editorial - Anglo-Irish Bank cooked the books

WHEN Finance Minister Brian Lenihan proposed in the Dáil on 20 January that Anglo-Irish Bank be nationalised he either did not know about how that bank had cooked its books the previous September or, if he did know, he did not reveal it to the Dáil. Either way the Fianna Fáil/Green Government again stands indicted on its handling of the banks just as it prepares to pour more billions into Bank of Ireland and AIB.  
It was revealed on Wednesday that Irish Life and Permanent in September 2008 deposited between €6 and €7 billion in Anglo-Irish Bank. €4 billion of that total was deposited on 30 September – the day the bank’s financial year ended and hours after the Government’s guarantee to the banks was announced.  
This was clearly an exercise in ‘cooking the books’ as shown by the fact that Irish Life and Permanent withdrew the deposit a week to ten days later. Anglo-Irish wanted to avoid collapse and benefit from the State guarantee and used a deceptive financial ruse to achieve this.
On 20 January Finance Minister Brian Lenihan asked the Dáil to approve the nationalisation of Anglo-Irish. Sinn Féin Dáil leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin questioned if the Minister was giving the Dáil all the information in his possession.
This Wednesday in the Dáil, Ó Caoláin challenged the Taoiseach on the issue and cut straight to heart of the matter. He said:  
“On 20 January I asked specifically of the Minister for Finance if he had other information he was not sharing with the Deputies on the Opposition benches, whom he was asking to buy a pig in a poke.  He was asking us to sign on to the expenditure of public monies and the exposure of the public finances to what I described as potentially a financial cesspit. That is exactly as it has proven to be.   
“If the Minister had not proceeded as he did, after yesterday’s exposure about Irish Life & Permanent the ass would have fallen out of Anglo Irish Bank and it would not be worth a button on the Stock Exchange this morning.  That is a fact.  It would be over and done with.  Many people watching the situation would say today ‘Good riddance’.  There are strong opinions on this matter.  The Minister for Finance was unable to give that assurance.  He looked ashen-faced across the House in response to that and other questions posed.  He clearly had critical information, and he had either personally decided to withhold it or had been gagged and prevented from sharing it with other Members of the House.
“That constituted absolute misleading of the Members of this House who were facing a critical proposition – one, thankfully, that a significant body of us had the wit and sense not to sign up to.” 

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