THE MINISTERS WHO approved Ireland’s 2008 bank guarantee felt forced into their decision – and former Finance Minister Brian Lenihan was also “delighted” that the move annoyed the British Chancellor of the Exchequer, according to a new documentary series by RTÉ.
In episode one of a two-part series, Inside the Cowen Government, which delves into the inner-workings of the administration, political editor Pat Leahy looks at the far-reaching decision by the government to offer a blanket guarantee to all of Ireland’s banks - and reveals how uncomfortable some cabinet members were about the decision process.
The first episode, broadcast on RTÉ One this evening, Mary Hanafin and Willie O’Dea both say that they were effectively given no alternative but to approve the decision in the early hours of the morning.
Hanafin said ministers were contacted by telephone in the early hours of 30 September and told that the blanket guarantee “was the only option to protect people’s money and it had to be done before the markets opened”. She condemned the move, saying “that decision shouldn’t have been taken at a quarter to two in the morning – all cabinet members should have been called to Dublin”.
Similarly, Willie O’Dea recalls being told of “the possibility of no money (being) in the ATMs” upon the markets opening the following morning, and the insistence that “nothing short of this full absolute guarantee would save the situation”.
Subsequently, Brian Lenihan told people he was delighted that the decision annoyed the British Chancellor of the Exchequer Alastair Darling.
The programme reveals how senior Fianna Fail figures, including PJ Mara, had begged the Taoiseach Brian Cowen to communicate in a more clear and regular manner with the Irish public on the crisis – but that their advice had been ignored. The claim has been backed by current Fianna Fáil leader Micheal Martin, who said that Cowen didn’t believe in “optics”.
Martin added that both he and other ministers had been “very annoyed” by the Taoiseach’s change of approach before the 2007 general election when he unilaterally decided to massive inflate Fianna Fail’s election promises.
All video clips courtesy of RTÉ