Former Prime Minister Bertie Ahern has told a Polish newspaper that he can “only blame himself” that he did not insist on keeping strict control over banks and financial institutions. He warned Poland not to do what Ireland did.
“This is fundamental,” he told Rzeczpospolita , one of Poland’s biggest daily newspapers, in an interview.
“If I had known this before 2008, Ireland wouldn’t have suffered. I can blame only myself.
“There were problems with Japanese banks, Turkish ones.
“However until it happened here no one wanted to believe that our institutions were similarly endangered.”
However Ahern said he does not feel responsible for what happened to the Irish economy and what the banks did.
“Practically, as politicians, we don’t have any control over them. The Central Bank reports but only what it wants to report.
“My mistake was to put too much trust into what the financial people were doing.
“But who would suppose that people in such responsible positions, of huge experience, committed such culpable mistakes and didn’t exercise self-control?”
Ahern accepted that the property market got out of control: “I agree . . . that we were building too much; we believed that there would be buyers of properties forever . . . It was a mistake on our side. But if not for the collapse of Lehman Brothers, which in my opinion became a catalyst [for] the Irish crisis, we would have two to three years to face the problem.
“Due to the crash in the US we had to face the reality unexpectedly.”
Ahern said not spending so recklessly was not an option during the height of the Celtic Tiger.
“From each side, from each politician, I heard constantly ‘spend, spend’ . . . I was criticized all the time that I spent too little.
“If I had cut spending they would have crucified me.”
He also admitted he was thinking of running for president in 2011.
“I am thinking about this. Now, it’s only an idea, but I wonder about running in the presidential elections.
“Still, I have a lot of time to think about this; the election is not until 2011.”