The Anglo tapes - Irish need to hear similar conversations from AIB and Bank of Ireland too


The overriding concern of the ECB, the Germans, even Timothy Geithner in the U.S., was that no investors or bondholders were to be burned, because this might start a run on banks in other weak European countries.    

Even though these bondholders and investors had essentially gambled by putting their money in here during the boom, they were not to be touched.  Every last cent of the cost of saving the Irish banks and repaying all the foreign banks and bondholders was to be carried by the Irish taxpayer.  And that is exactly what has happened. 

Last week Irish politicians from the taoiseach (prime minister) on down were declaring themselves to be shocked and disgusted by what was on the Anglo tapes.  German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she had nothing but "contempt" for the Anglo bankers.   

But what was done to ordinary Irish taxpayers -- and is still being done -- is what is really shocking, disgusting and contemptible, and much of that is down to German policy.  So we can consider Merkel's outrage with that in mind. 

That's the real scandal. Not what a few Anglo execs were saying to each other when the testosterone and adrenaline were flowing and they were almost hysterical about the failure of the Irish authorities to act fast enough to save them.     

It's a fair bet that the same thing was going on in the two big players in Irish banking, Bank of Ireland and Allied Irish Banks, as their cash situations also started to crumble.  We have been told that the recording of phone conversations in Anglo was normal and that the same may well be true of the Big Two banks.

Are there tapes there as well?  If so, we need to hear them. 

We have been told repeatedly that no records exist of the conversations that took place on the night of the infamous blanket guarantee given to the Irish banks by the last government at the end of September 2008, the decision that ended up bankrupting the country.  We have even been told that no notes were taken.

This is both outrageous and incredible.  If no notes were taken by the senior civil servants, the senior politicians and the bank bosses who were at that all night meeting, that is disgraceful.  (And by the way, the Anglo Irish executives were not at that critical meeting.)   

We are told also that there are no tapes of what happened that fateful night in Government Buildings.   But even if there are no tapes of what AIB and Bank of Ireland bosses were saying that night, it may not matter because in the days and hours before that critical meeting you can be certain that their most senior executives were discussing what was evolving.   

And even more important, you can be sure that in the hours and days after that fateful night when the blanket bank guarantee decision had been taken, the senior bank executives would have been discussing what had happened that night, who had said what, and so on.   

So phone recordings or written records from the Big Two banks for those crucial days before and after the night of the bank guarantee are gold dust.  They would show exactly what the former Taoiseach Brian Cowen and his Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan were told by the bank bosses.  They would also reveal what the top civil servants from the Department of Finance who were in the room were saying. 

All of this is vital in assessing the basis on which the blanket guarantee was issued.  That guarantee bankrupted Ireland and forced us into an IMF/EU bailout a couple of years later. 

And we were given the bailout money on condition that the Irish state -- in other words the ordinary Irish taxpayer -- pays it all back. 

Which is how the cost of the bank collapse here was transferred from investors and bondholders to the Irish taxpayer, and why we are now in a killer austerity regime of higher taxes and lower spending that has suffocated our economy and caused mass emigration. 

That's the real scandal.  Not just what a few Anglo execs said to each other when the testosterone and adrenaline were flowing.