Ahern urged to accept his role in economic crisis

Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern’s attempt to distance himself from any responsibility for the economic crisis has ignited angry calls for him to accept his role in the downturn.

Ahern urged to accept his role in economic crisis

Mr Ahern yesterday said, if asked, he would appear before the Oireachtas banking inquiry, but shrugged off responsibility for the crash, saying it happened after his time in office.

Speaking to Newstalk radio, the three-time taoiseach said he was willing to appear before the banking probe: “If I’m asked, of course I will. Unfortunately, it all happened, at least all the Anglo stuff and the bailout stuff and all of that, it happened after my time. If I can add anything to them of course [I will].”

Asked if there were signs of the crash during his tenure as taoiseach, he responded: “I wish there were, we might have been able to do something about it. The answer is there wasn’t, unfortunately. Certainly not with the banks, and I used to think that the people we had in those days as chair and the chief executives of the banks, I thought they were all solid people.”

The former Fianna Fáil leader said he had now reread ESRI reports at the time, before the economic crash, and one of the lines was that Ireland’s banking system was “very sound and healthy”.

He said that the “voices in the wilderness” had not been listened to. They were often wrong but now and again, they were right.

Mr Ahern in 2007 said some commentators should commit suicide, after one economist said property prices would fall by 60%. TDs and senators last night rounded on Mr Ahern’s comments. Sinn Féin TD Mary Lou McDonald said: “What people want to get to is to shine a light on that nexus between the high flyers in banking and the political establishment. I’m not convinced by an argument there were no danger signs and that there was no sense within the system that things were awry.”

Labour senator and European election candidate Lorraine Higgins went further. Mr Ahern had ruled over a weak financial regulatory system which allowed for the crash, she argued: “His arrogance and blatant disregard for the pivotal position he occupied during the Celtic Tiger years, when credit was being tossed around like confetti, is nothing short of disgusting.”

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