The family of Brian Lenihan say his name has been “sullied” by comments made by former European Central Bank president Jean Claude Trichet about events leading up the infamous bank guarantee.
Phone records of the late finance minister may now be examined by the banking inquiry to ascertain if Mr Trichet or his officials did or did not call Mr Lenihan and warn him to save the banks “at all costs”.
The disagreement comes as the inquiry prepares to hear from more bank bosses this week about the night the Fianna Fáil-led Government decided on the blanket guarantee. Mr Trichet last week denied he had telephoned Mr Lenihan on September 20, 2008, and warned him to save the banks “at all costs”, a claim the minister made previously on television.
Former minister Mary O’Rourke, an aunt of Mr Lenihan, suggested yesterday that the ex-ECB head could have been less than forthcoming when he answered questions — but not under oath — to the banking inquiry.
She was critical of the inquiry members having to sit below Mr Trichet, outside of Leinster House.
“I thought this is all wrong. I had a foreboding that the setting was wrong and the idea that you would go like a schoolboy or girl be summoned to the master.
She criticised his evidence and agreed someone else could have telephoned the Irish minister on Mr Trichet’s behalf:
“That’s what you call Jesuitical [his evidence], dancing on [the head of] a pin. He may not have telephoned but someone acting for him may well have, did telephone. I believe Brian got a telephone call.” Asked on RTÉ radio if Brian Lenihan’s name was being “sullied” by this, Ms O’Rourke replied:
“I do, of course, I do.
Mr Lenihan had told an RTÉ documentary in 2010 he had received a message on his phone from Mr Trichet days before the 2008 guarantee that said “you must save your banks at all costs”.
Ms O’Rourke added: “That’s on record, so we have his own voice saying that.”
Banking inquiry sources yesterday told the ‘Irish Examiner’ it had the powers to check the record of calls made or received by Mr Lenihan. It was also confirmed that inquiry members this week will decide if Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Tánaiste Joan Burton can be called to give evidence and asked about their party policies during the financial crash.
Bank of Ireland officials, including group chief executive Richie Boucher, will this week also be asked by the inquiry what they knew about the bank guarantee.
Meanwhile, Finance Minister Michael Noonan has said he is prepared to introduce legislation to force banks to reduce their variable mortgage rates for borrowers. Mr Noonan will receive research from the Central Bank later this week on the difference in what it costs bankers to source funds and what they charge mortgage holders.
He said central bank governor Patrick Honohan’s initial thoughts on the issue were that the “margin [difference being charged] wasn’t justified.”
“If the central bank propose to me that they should get of setting interest rates, I will legislate to give control to the central bank.” Mr Noonan told RTÉ.
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