Former regulator Neary to attend bank inquiry

Former financial regulator Patrick Neary, who, days after the bank guarantee, defended a lack of oversight in the sector and claimed the public’s money was “safe”, has been directed to attend a key banking inquiry grilling in May.

The now retired official was informed of the legally binding move last night.

Details revealed by the cross-party inquiry show Mr Neary has been ordered to the meetings alongside 15 other individuals.

They include former minister of state Tom Parlon, who now heads the Construction Industry Federation, retired Irish Congress of Trade Unions head David Begg, and high-ranking auditors from international firms KPMG, Ernst and Young, and Deloitte and Touche.

Mr Neary provoked outrage in a RTÉ Prime Time programme on October 2, 2008, when he said he had no concerns over the liquidity of the banks and insisted reckless property lending played no role in the crash.

In the seven-minute interview, Mr Neary repeatedly attempted to avoid questions about the economy and concerns that the banking sector could not “absorb” its debts, and denied that watchdogs had failed to properly examine financial institutions.

The programme was summed up by economist Colm McCarthy in a March 2011 Vanity Fair interview as: “Everyone in Ireland had the idea that somewhere there was a little wise old man who was in charge of the money. They saw him and said: ‘Who the fuck was that? Is that the guy in charge of the money?’ That’s when everyone panicked.”

Mr Neary retired in January 2009, after receiving a golden handshake of €630,000, and has remained largely out of the spotlight in the subsequent six years, except for an appearance at last year’s Anglo trials.

The list of people set to appear was revealed as the latest meeting of the inquiry was told that political parties should be forced to publish full accounts of their donors before the next general election if they are serious about stopping certain interest groups effectively buying “influence” over government policy.

Corruption and governance specialist Elaine Byrne made the call as she insisted an independent commission should be set up to reform how Irish politics is funded, and said officials should consider paying whistleblowers as incentives.

Dr Byrne told the cross-party group that donations to any party increase significantly when there is a “proximity to power”.

She said the issue — which created ‘beef barons’ in the 1980s, ‘bank barons’ in the 2000s, and could affect multi-nationals now — is apparent in all parties and not linked to one political “genetic pool”.

However, she noted that, between 2002 and 2007, Fianna Fáil received seven times the average donations, and she asked whether it is right for “friends of Sinn Féin” groups abroad to pay in to Irish democracy.

When asked if she was aware of secret donations to politicians, Dr Byrne responded that she is in a room with 11 politicians right now.

“Well, has anyone in this room ever received secret political donations?” she asked to uncomfortable laughter, later noting that no one answered.

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