Banking inquiry - Trichet’s trio of haughty denials

THE haughty arrogance of Jean Claude Trichet, who last week snubbed Ireland’s banking inquiry and insisted that Oireachtas members attend upon him at his venue of choice, is trumped only by his gross insensitivity to the memory of the former finance minister, the late Brian Lenihan.

It is one thing to kick a man when he’s down, it is quite another to do so when he is dead.

But Mr Trichet may have met his match in the form of Mr Lenihan’s feisty aunt, Mary O’Rourke, who has vowed to reassert her nephew’s good name.

Refusing to attend the banking inquiry, he forced Oireachtas members to join the Trichet roadshow after a lecture he delivered at the Institute of International and European Affairs at the Royal Hospital in Kilmainham.

It was not his only lecture that day, as he blamed everyone but himself or the European Central Bank for our financial crash. He said it was primarily our own fault and the ECB went out of its way to help us, while never once threatening us with anything.

Mr Trichet flatly denied that he phoned Brian Lenihan three days before the bank guarantee in 2008 to insist that the Government save its banks at all costs.

That denial is implausible, to say the least. As the head of the ECB at a crucial juncture for the Irish economy he was hugely influential in determining Ireland’s response to the financial crisis. He was in charge of the ECB when Ireland introduced the bank guarantee and entered the Troika’s bailout programme.

That was not his only denial, either. He also insisted he did not warn Michael Noonan of “a bomb going off in Dublin” if bondholders were burned. It was not a metaphor he would use, he insisted.

Furthermore, another former finance minister, Ray MacSharry, is furious that Mr Trichet has also dismissed his claims that the ECB stopped Mr Lenihan from burning bondholders in 2010 just before Ireland was forced into the Troika bailout programme.

In a book published last year, Mr MacSharry recalled how Mr Lenihan had phoned him to say Mr Trichet had agreed to the burning of bondholders, but later called again to say the ECB chief had changed his mind after realising that the main casualty if the bondholders were burnt would be major German and French banks.

Mr Trichet dismissed these claims as “totally absurd” but Mr MacSharry is standing over them and his version of events is supported by Green party leader Eamon Ryan, who says Trichet did play a major role in the bank guarantee.

That’s three denials by Mr Trichet, rejecting the accounts of three of Ireland’s most senior public and political figures. Is it little wonder he refused to attend the banking inquiry?

It is unlikely that this will be the end of the matter, though. The Lenihan family are enraged at Mr Trichet essentially calling the former finance minister a liar.

If Ms O’Rourke has anything to do with it, Mr Trichet will no longer have it all his own way.

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