Taoiseach Brian Cowen insisted today that he still does not know how much Anglo Irish Bank will cost the taxpayer – but suggested it could be around €30bn.
On the eve of the latest official estimate on the losses of the nationalised rogue lender, Mr Cowen said the Financial Regulator still had not told him the full scale of the controversial bail-out.
But he dismissed a credit ratings agency prediction that the bill could hit €35bn and instead referred to €30bn “as an example” to illustrate the costs involved.
“If it were of the order of €30bn... it would mean a payment of €1.5bn every year in relation to the interest,” he said.
“Obviously the €30bn figure would be added to the national debt.”
Labour leader Eamon Gilmore said it was extraordinary and “not credible” that the Taoiseach did not know the final bill, which is expected to be announced by Financial Regulator Matthew Elderfield tomorrow.
“Is that the message that’s going out to the markets?” he said.
“That the head of the Government doesn’t know the bottom line for Anglo, doesn’t yet know a figure that will be announced tomorrow.”
Mr Gilmore said the final figure was a critical piece of information that was only being revealed a day after the Dáil votes on the extension of the €440bn state bank guarantee.
The Labour leader said the Taoiseach was asking the people of Ireland to write another blank cheque for the banks when they did not know the full cost of the first.
But Mr Cowen insisted the Government was backing the bank guarantee extension on the widely-respected advice of the Central Bank governor Patrick Honohan.
Insisting he did not know the full cost of the Anglo bail-out yet, he added: “It’s not a question of a nod and wink to the Taoiseach of the day, it’s a question of awaiting the considered judgment of the Financial Regulator.”
In the first day back at the Dáil after a three-month summer break, Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny said the Taoiseach and Finance Minister Brian Lenihan “colluded” with bankers two years ago on the banking guarantee.
Describing it as the most catastrophic decision in history of state, he said it had plunged the country into a crisis of chronic joblessness, surging emigration and negative equity.
“People are in despair and confusion and fear because of complete uncertainty, because of Government actions,” he said.
Accusing Mr Cowen of crushing the spirit of many of the Irish people after telling them the banking guarantee would cost nothing, Mr Kenny demanded an apology from the Taoiseach.
But Mr Cowen said Fine Gael supported the bank guarantee when it was passed and should stop peddling the myth that it was misguided.
The Taoiseach said he stood by the decisions made at the time.