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Howlin says officials looking for lost documents - but Department won't say if they are

The Minister was responding to revelations that two documents related to the bank guarantee have gone missing from the Department of Finance, but it’s not clear if officials are trying to find them.

Brendan Howlin at Government Buildings earlier today.
Brendan Howlin at Government Buildings earlier today.
Image: Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland

PUBLIC EXPENDITURE AND Reform Minister Brendan Howlin has said he is sure there are “good efforts under way right now” to find documents related to the bank guarantee that have been lost by the Department of Finance.

However, the Department would not confirm last night if any active search is being carried out to find two letters, copied to Brian Lenihan in January 2009, which have gone missing.

It emerged last Friday that the original versions of two letters, both concerning a possible investment in Bank of Ireland in January 2009 and which were copied to the former finance minister, have gone missing from its records. Copies of both letters are only available in redacted form although one of them has been partially recovered.

The Department said last week that despite “a widespread search” the original documents cannot be located and officials don’t know how or why they went missing – a response labelled as unacceptable by the chairmen of the Public Accounts Committee and the Oireachtas Finance Committee.

Howlin said yesterday: “I heard, as you did, the statement by the Department of Finance and I am sure there’s good efforts underway right now to find those documents.”

But in response to a query from TheJournal.ie as to whether any active efforts are under way to find the documents, the Department said the position remains the same as last week and would not confirm if any search is currently being carried out by officials.

A statement said: “In advance of the banking inquiry, the Department has commenced a project which seeks in the initial phase to document all records in our procession, and in the second to cross reference these documents to each other and to other material from the period with a view to ensuring the completeness and integrity of our records from the period.

“We are not aware of any other documents in the period relating to the bank guarantee that cannot be found.”

Speaking yesterday, Howlin noted that there is a “paucity of documentation” at the Department of Finance in relation to the events leading up to and in the period around the now infamous bank guarantee of September 2008, where the State backed all assets and liabilities in the Irish banking system.

“I think everybody in the government is absolutely anxious that every shred of documentation that’s available [is made available],” the Minister said.

“One of the problems is the paucity of actual documentation leading up to the night of the guarantee, the paucity of the documentation that is available in some areas that you’d expect it to be. But everything that’s there should be available and I hope will be made available.

The matter is likely to be raised at the Public Accounts Committee either later today or more likely tomorrow with its chairman, John McGuinness, saying on Monday that there is “an onus to ensure these documents are found”.

John McGuinness: Missing bank guarantee documents need to be found

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

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Hugh O'Connell

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