Letter to the Editor: Review of banks’ role in crisis must be honest

Letter to the Editor: Review of banks’ role in crisis must be honest

Brian Hayes (Irish Examiner, October 24) has morphed into an apologist for the banks and bankers. He paints a picture of them as benign bystanders in the chaos following the financial crash of 2008.

Mr Hayes’s statement that “banks made huge mistakes” is untrue.He should know that banks and bankers orchestrated a system of cynical corporate governance, driven by untrammelled greed, a bonusculture, and hubris.

As a result,Ireland was long known as the ‘wild west’ of the financial world and that reputational damage continues to this day.

The sad outcome was an unprecedented loss of national sovereignty, in 2010, requiring a bailout by the ECB and the IMF to the tune of €64bn, ultimately to be paid for by the taxpayer.

What followed should never be forgotten by Mr Hayes and his banker friends. 350,000 jobs were lost, thousands of companies went bankrupt, and 300,000 people were forced to emigrate, many never to return. State assets were flogged-off at knock-down prices to foreign hedge and vulture funds.

Families were devastated. Borrowers couldn’t repay their mortgages. Evictions became a nasty feature in Irish society, driven by bankers scampering to recover assets.

Remarkably, Mr Hayes complains that the Irish mortgage market has “one of Europe’s longest timelines for repossessions” and compares unfavourably with the UK, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, the Netherlands, Austria and Germany, none of which were faced with the same level of austerity and financial ruin perpetrated by the Irish banks on Irish society.

If Mr Hayes cares to check the records, he will find that prior to the crash, mortgage-holders had largely an unblemished record in meeting commitments.

Mr Hayes wonders about the lack of new entrants to the market. He then provides the answer, by stating that lenders here are required to work through a range of legislative provisions and Central Bank codes of conduct, considered by “informed observers” to be very extensive by international standards.

Mr Hayes knows the regulatory regime has been forced on the banks (regrettably, after the event) because of their negligence, dishonesty, and abuse of customers.

Mr Hayes correctly calls for a balanced debate. Perhaps a little honesty should be a priority in that debate.

- John Leahy

Wilton Road

Cork

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