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Dublin: 5°C Sunday 17 January 2021

Bertie 'can only blame himself' for lax financial regulation

The former Taoiseach admits to a Polish newspaper that there should have been greater banking oversight.

Image: Niall Carson/PA Archive

FORMER TAOISEACH Bertie Ahern has admitted to a Polish newspaper that he blames himself for the absence of thorough control over Ireland’s banking institutions.

In an interview published earlier this week by Rzeczpospolita, under the headline ‘The Tiger is my baby’, Ahern advised Poland of the crucial need to keep tight control over the banking sector, adding that he lamented not realising that.

In a question-and-answer session with the paper, asked if he was the father of the Celtic Tiger, he said he was “one of the parents, for sure” – but he admitted to not reading a number of reports analysing the state of the banking sector in full.

“I looked through the reports, but I have to admit I didn’t read them in their entirety,” he said. “I agree with the statement that we build too much, we believed that property buyers would be there forever until we managed to crack the housing bubble. It was a mistake on our part.”

He did not feel responsible for the bad policies pursued by the country’s banks, but conceded that he had been overly confident on the activities of financiers – though saying nobody could have expected people in responsible positions to make such grave errors of judgement.

The government had not tried to build up a reserve of savings, Ahern said, because he was being urged to spend all around.

From each side, from each politician, I heard constantly ‘spend, spend’ – and yet I was criticised all the time that I spent too little.

Asked about his complaints that he had too much time on his hands since his “political retirement” – despite the fact that Ahern remains a sitting TD – he said:

For 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.

About the author:

Gavan Reilly

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