Former ECB boss rules out bank probe appearance

The former head of the ECB has ruled out appearing before any Oireachtas banking inquiry and denied Ireland’s financial crisis was targeted unfairly by Europe.

Former ECB boss rules out bank probe appearance

Jean-Claude Trichet’s comments come as the Oireachtas finance committee — tipped to lead the probe — is set to hold private talks on a submission to take responsibility for the inquiry.

The Dáil last week passed an order effectively setting the ball in motion on a banking probe.

Brian Lenihan, the late finance minister, previously told a BBC documentary that Ireland was forced into a bailout by the ECB.

Mr Trichet told the Sunday Independent he thought the governor of the Irish Central Bank, and not him, should appear before any banking inquiry.

“Until now, I received no such request [to appear before an inquiry] from Ireland,” said Mr Trichet. “The rules in the ECB are that, all our decisions being collegial, the president goes to the European Parliament and the governors of central banks go to the national parliaments.”

He rejected suggestions that the ECB “bounced” Ireland into asking for a bailout for its banks and economy. “Lending to Ireland was in many multiples to what was being given to other countries,” he said. “So enormous support, and that is one of the reasons I am very surprised at this kind of discussion.

“There was not a special case there in terms of [Ireland’s] action with the Central Bank. Also, I wouldn’t say there was any sort of quid pro quo.”

Much debate surrounds whether the Oireachtas bank probe should be held before or during pending court cases against bankers, or whether it should be delayed until afterwards, so not to prejudice any trials.

Alex White, the junior health minister, yesterday told RTÉ’s The Week in Politics that he thought much of the content of the inquiry might not relate to potentially criminal issues.

“If you look at the whole period of the last 15 years and you look at the general area of let’s just call it wrongdoing, what possibly caused the crisis, most of it isn’t in the criminal area at all,” said Mr White. “There may have been some criminal culpability that arose towards the end.

“Most of it... was people being incompetent, not doing their jobs properly, people having bad lending practices. All of these issues can be addressed.”

The finance committee is to meet on Wednesday to decide how and if it will put together a submission on holding the inquiry.

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