Committee to question key finance officials

THE Dáil Public Accounts Committee will meet with Department of Finance officials next week to discuss the revelations in the documentation.

The committee, which monitors public spending, had been seeking the documentation for weeks as it attempted to inquire into the banking sector collapse. After getting the documentation, the committee met in private session on Thursday to discuss it and take legal advice.

It then decided to publish the documentation in the interests of transparency, according to committee chairman and Fine Gael TD Bernard Allen.

The committee will reconvene in public session next Thursday, when it will hear from the secretary general of the department and other key officials.

Meanwhile, Fine Gael finance spokesman Michael Noonan said the documentation proved the Government’s “catastrophic” misjudgments “torpedoed” the economy.

Mr Noonan pointed out that Merrill Lynch had cautioned against a blanket guarantee. Despite this, Brian Cowen and Brian Lenihan pushed ahead with such a guarantee, and included Anglo.

“The Taoiseach has argued throughout this crisis that his decision to provide a blanket guarantee to Anglo Irish Bank and the other banks was based on the best professional advice in a crisis situation,” Mr Noonan said.

“(But) Merrill Lynch’s top advisers, hired by the government at great expense to advise on the crisis, recommended against a blanket guarantee at a meeting attended by the Finance Minister, four days before it was offered.

“The new facts rubbish the images conjured by the Taoiseach and Finance Minister of a Government being bounced in the early hours of September 30 into the catastrophic decision to offer a blanket guarantee to Anglo Irish Bank on the basis of poor advice by the ill-prepared financial regulator.”

Labour TD Roisín Shortall said the documentation proved that no proper thought was given to alternatives to the guarantee.

“There is no evidence in the documentation to suggest that alternatives to the blanket guarantee were properly considered in spite of the very expensive advice being sought from advisers such as Merrill Lynch,” she said.

Sinn Féin TD Arthur Morgan said the “false truths” provided by the banks in relation to their assets in the run-up to the guarantee had “exposed the taxpayer to a litany of debt”.

“The privileged position of the banking sector in Ireland was upheld by this Government and their officials, to the detriment of the ordinary people of this state,” he said.


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