Roche seeks Europe-wide probe into rating agencies

US criminal investigations into the role that ratings agencies played in the economic crisis were praised by Europe Minister Dick Roche, who said he personally would support similar steps being taken in Europe.

But he warned also that one of the greatest dangers to the country’s economy now was negative attitudes by people, and the talking down of the capacity for recovery.

Mr Roche was especially critical of Standard & Poor’s, who last week reduced the country’s credit rating, contributing to higher costs for borrowing.

“Just 10 days before the September 2008 collapse they have a triple A rating to $2 billion worth of bonds that they junked a short time later. They had a job to do but we pay too much attention to them,” he said.

France and Germany have both indicated interest in reining in their influence on the markets and the European Commission is due to produce proposals shortly.

Mr Roche said that he could not speak for the Government, but added, “My personal view is that you cannot avoid moving in to this area. It is a substantial elephant in the room.”

There was very little an individual nation like Ireland could do about it, but it should be possible at a European level, he said.

In relation to the Irish economy and its ability to meet the costs of winding-down Anglo Irish Bank, Mr Roche said there was a danger that a pessimistic attitude would become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

“We need to show some confidence in our capacity to move ahead.

“Minister Brian Lenihan is quite inspirational in this. We should not panic. We need to keep control on how we react and respond,” he said.

People need to become sufficiently confident that we will get through the crisis to start spending again, and this in itself will inject more life into the economy, he said.

“We are in a difficult position but I have absolute confidence that we will work through it.

“We could create difficulties for ourselves by talking ourselves into a darker place.”

On Anglo Irish Bank, he said it would take time to work out the final cost and at the same time it will depend on the length of time the exercise takes.

Winding down over 15 years would cost the state approximately €1.5 billion a year.


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