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Sean Fitzpatrick to stand trial

Ireland’s bankers finally face the music in court -- Anglo Irish bosses will be judged before their peers

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Sean Fitzpatrick to stand trial

How the mighty have fallen in Ireland with the news that Sean FitzPatrick and two colleagues will stand trial for their actions during the collapse of Anglo-Irish Bank which almost bankrupted the Irish state along with it.

It is hard to imagine a jury of their peers having much sympathy with the men, especially FitzPatrick, who has become the poster child for bankers behaving badly.

The case concerns loans made to 10 businessmen at the height of the crisis which they used to buy bank shares in a desperate but failed attempt to keep the bank share price from collapsing.

The case will also involve the extraordinary actions around the billions spent by former billionaire, the now bankrupt Sean Quinn, who lost his fortune buying the bank stock just before it collapsed.

There will be a sigh of relief in many political circles in Ireland that a prosecution is at last going ahead, as there has been a widespread sense that the big fish were getting away with their alleged misdeeds and none were being held accountable.

In that respect FitzPatrick and his friends represent some of the iceberg, but not all.  Future cases may come down to who knew what and when, as the bank entered its death spiral and a large group of insiders, including regulators and others, must have had strong inklings about what was about to happen.

How deep and wide a net the prosecutors eventually use will determine how many are ultimately charged.

The Irish people have a right to hear the full story of the most spectacular collapse of any bank of recent times in Europe, one which single-handedly inflamed the European crisis and dealt a death blow to the Celtic Tiger.

The ultimate cost to the Irish taxpayer was over $40 billion, an incredible sum given the total Irish annual tax take in recent years is in the region of $40 billion.

While FitzPatrick is the man who fell to earth after enjoying a charmed life, there are scores of others who must be trembling in their trousers with the news of the Anglo chief’s prosecution.

When we look back on that time in 2008/’09 there are more than enough bad actors to go around.

The men negotiating on Ireland's behalf with Europe were Finance Minister Brian Lenihan, who was dying with incurable cancer, and Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Brian Cowen, widely assailed for having a significant drinking problem and being disengaged.

It reads like a bad Irish joke, and in many ways it was. The rest of the Irish “A” team at the time also singularly failed to impress, with the result that Ireland now has a crushing burden of debt thanks to Seanie’s shenanigans and a governmental oversight of what he was really up that was actually laughable.

Except the hard-pressed Irish taxpayer is hardly laughing and faces very tough times for at least a decade as the country tries to get its finances back into good standing.

It all started with the rotten bank called Anglo, and it will be at least some consolation that the main actors will have to face the music. That, at least, can give some satisfaction.

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