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John McGuinness: Missing bank guarantee documents need to be found

The chair of the Public Accounts Committee said he is “appalled” by the news that documents related to the bank guarantee have gone missing in the Department of Finance.

The entrance to the Department of Finance on Merrion Street
The entrance to the Department of Finance on Merrion Street
Image: Niall Carson/Press Association

Updated 10.55pm

THE CHAIRMAN OF the Public Accounts Committee, John McGuinness, said today he is “appalled” that the Department of Finance has lost two documents related to the period around the 2008 bank guarantee.

The Fianna Fáil TD was responding to TheJournal.ie‘s story last Friday which disclosed that the original versions of two letters, both concerning a possible investment in Bank of Ireland in January 2009 and which were copied to former finance minister Brian Lenihan, have gone missing from the Department’s records.

The Department said that despite “a widespread search” the original documents cannot be located and officials don’t know how or why they went missing, a response McGuinness said is “not acceptable” and said there is “an onus to ensure these documents are found”.

His comments were echoed by the chair of the Oireachtas Finance Committee, Labour’s Ciaran Lynch, who said it was not acceptable that the documents could go missing and officials not know how or why this happened.

Speaking to TheJournal.ie today, McGuinness said: “I am appalled at the fact that the Department of Finance would lose such significant documents and how many more documents have now been misplaced?”

“I think is essential that the ministers, both Brendan Howlin and Michael Noonan, would instruct their officials to freshly search the Department and bring forward any documentation related to the bank guarantee.”

He said there is “a need” for the Minister for Finance to make a statement to the Dáil about the matter which he said he intends to raise at the Public Accounts Committee meeting on Thursday.

‘May not be recoverable’

Lynch, who is tipped to head the Oireachtas banking inquiry when it gets under way this year, said that it appeared there are only hard copies of the material that has gone missing which means the documents “may not be recoverable”.

“I would be concerned that information that might be relevant to any future inquiry may not be held securely and may not be treated in a secure enough fashion,” he said.

The Cork South Central TD noted that that the Minister for Finance had instructed banks to secure material for any forthcoming inquiry and said this instruction “would logically apply to the Department of Finance and the Central Bank and I would see the same requirement beholden on them.”

He added: “It would not be acceptable for documents of this significance to actually go missing without the Department having a process to ensure traceability.”

McGuinness has previously call for the Department to publicly release, without redaction, all documentation related to the bank guarantee but said the Department of Finance has been reluctant to do this.

“The State itself is now the obstacle to any constructive banking inquiry. We could not complete the bank stabilisation report because they would not release the documents to us,” he said.

“It’s now well passed time in terms of when this happened, from 2007 onwards… This is now 2014 and we’re trying to understand what happened in the past.”

- Originally posted 12pm

Read: The Department of Finance has lost letters connected to the bank guarantee

Read: Anglo worried that the bank guarantee could make it liable if other banks failed

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Hugh O'Connell

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