The six o’clock news has just ended.
Bryan Dobson has just said to the Minister for Finance:
“Finally, there’s an enormous amount of public anger at all of this, at the way the banks have behaved, at the level of regulation that they’ve been subjected to, at the way people like you have discharged your responsibilities and people in positions of political leadership, and from nobody have we heard an admission that yes, we got it wrong and we’re sorry, we screwed up”.
Brian the Anger-Resistant
Brian Lenihan’s answer (and thanks to Sky Plus’s pause-&-rewind-live-TV facility for all this, it’s not just for replaying the penalty we were given against Georgia last night and laughing our heads off , you know) started:
“Well, I’ve been trying to repair this since last September and I have to say that while I’ve received some public anger over the budgetary decisions – I understand that – I haven’t had any public anger in relation to what has to be done about the banks…”
Then allow me.
A Bank Built on Bull
Last September the people in charge of our banks came running to you crying because the big bad investors were withdrawing their deposits, and there was a danger that they might all collapse. The one most at risk was Anglo Irish Bank, a bank with no on-the-street profile, no public branches, no day-to-day cheque book facilities, who had grown moderately large purely by lending huge amounts of money to a small number of investors and property developers. You decided that we, the Irish people, would guarantee that any money deposited with these banks would be repaid.
Among the people Anglo Irish lent money to was its own Chairman, Seán Fitzpatrick, to whom it lent sums ranging from €122 million to the €84 million he still owes now. Seánie hid this from the public each year by borrowing the same sum from Irish Nationwide for a few days at the end of each financial year, so that on September 30th the annual accounts showed that he owed nothing. Around the time that you were giving the guarantee on our behalf your Financial Regulator, the egregious Pat Neary, discovered that this had happened, but somehow you weren’t told till December, according to, well, you.
Sean the Disappointing
When it all came out Seánie resigned, and you said you were “disappointed” by his behaviour.
It now turns out that at year-end this year Anglo Irish gave €7 billion to Irish Life & Permanent, who put it on deposit in … Anglo Irish. This meant that in its accounts this year it was able to show customer deposits at €7 billion more than they really were. No matter what crap is talked by the banks about it being “normal inter-bank lending”, this was fraud. I can see that, and so ought you .
This was discovered last October by the very accountants you sent in to examine the affairs of Anglo Irish. They reported it to your Department, who deemed it serious enough to notify (oh God) the Financial Regulator, but you didn’t read that part of the report.
In simpler terms, Brian, coz I realise you have the attention span of a newt when it comes to reading stuff, you bailed out a bank that was so riddled with corrupt practices that its Balance Sheet has been nominated for the Booker Prize for Fiction, at the very time when you were thinking up a Budget taking Medical Cards from over-70s, denying anti-cancer injections to 12-year old girls and targeting disadvantaged schools.
Pat the Pensioned
The dreadful Pat Neary was finally shamed into resigning in January. He got a €630,000 severance payment and gets a pension of €142,000 a year. As a reward for incompetence that takes some beating.
As for the ILP “deposit”, according to you, the “specific character of this transaction was explained to me in the middle of January by my officials”. I’m surprised they could find words small enough. Anyway, for many of us this would have been the final straw, and we’d have decided to let Anglo Irish collapse & rot in its own filth, but to you it was one of the factors that persuaded you to nationalise it. You now knew that absolutely no trust could be placed in any of the financial reports from Anglo Irish, but decided that we, the public, would take it on, dodgy debts and all.
You called in the Chief Executive and Chairwoman of ILP to give them a damn good talking to. When? In January, when your officials spelled out what they’d done? Er, no, today, after the Press found out about it.
Not one person in any bank (including the one we now own), in the Finacial Regulator’s Office or in your Department has actually been sacked yet. Needless to say, you have neither resigned or been sacked. The smug smirk on your face when this was suggested in the Dáil today truly was a picture that told a thousand words, many of them crude enough to be understood even by you.
You say you haven’t had any public anger, yet in the Sunday Business Post of just four days ago Peter McLoone of Impact said “People are angry at the unfairness of this measure when the bankers and property speculators who caused this mess are being let off scot-free”.
Tinman the Pissed-off
In case you don’t have time to read papers, perhaps you can at least look at the pictures. Today’s Irish Times has a photo of Dublin Bus drivers outside the Department of Transport yesterday with placards saying “Billions for bankers – P45 for Bus Drivers”.
Make no mistake, Brian, the public are angry over all this. Very angry.
You are useless, and should go.