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Enda now says 'no specific briefing' about putting the army around ATMs

The Taoiseach appears to have rowed back from remarks about a warning from the governor of the Central Bank.

Enda Kenny
Enda Kenny
Image: RollingNews.ie

Updated 4.45pm 

ENDA KENNY HAS said he was not specifically briefed by the Central Bank governor about the possibility of needing to put the army around ATMs during the eurozone crisis.

In recent weeks, the Taoiseach has claimed Patrick Honohan warned him during the crisis that the army might be needed to guard banks and ATMs in the event of capital controls being implemented by the Irish government.

At a Fine Gael fundraiser on 7 October, he said:

It was more interesting when the head of the Central Bank came in on a Wednesday and said: ‘I have to tell you Taoiseach that it’s probably likely that you will have to put the army around the ATM machines on Friday.’

Then, speaking to members of the European People’s Party in Madrid last week, he said:

The governor told me, it looks like this weekend, a few years ago, you’ll have to put the army around the banks and around the ATM machines, and introduce capital controls like they had in Cyprus. So we’ve pulled back from that brink.

However, opposition TDs have questioned the veracity of the claim and why Kenny did not raise it in evidence to the banking inquiry.

The Central Bank and the Defence Forces have declined to comment. One informed source said they were “puzzled” by the remarks.

Asked about his comments today and whether he’d received a specific briefing from the governor of the Central Bank, Kenny said:

No. Not specific, no.

28/10/2015 Online Tax Calculator for Budget 2016. Enda Kenny with junior minister Simon Harris at the launch of Fine Gael's Budget calculator in Dublin today Source: Leah Farrell

A government source later claimed that the Taoiseach had never said he had received a specific briefing.

‘Task force’

Kenny told reporters today that the government set up a task force which considered all contingency plans, including the issue of security, around the time of the ‘Gallic spat’ with France about Ireland’s low corporate tax rate in 2012.

“The government did set up a task force comprised of a number of departments and agencies of which the Department of Finance, the Taoiseach, the Central Bank and so on were involved.

They considered all of these contingencies and clearly, as was pointed out to you by the Minister for Finance, the question of security in the event of a breakup of the euro currency was one that was considered. That didn’t happen obviously and we’re now in a much better place.

Asked if he regretted the remarks, Kenny said he was trying to explain that the task force had to consider “all of the contingencies or possible options that might happen because there was a very serious situation arising right across Europe”.

There was a lot of talk within different governments and so on that there might be an end to the euro currency per se. So, from that point of view, it was important.

A government source later claimed that the Central Bank was part of the government task force. As part of this, a briefing was provided in relation to the possible need for security in early 2012 in the Sycamore Room of Government Buildings, the source said.

“It is the case that there was no specific briefing between the two, but we never claimed there was,” the source said.

‘Walter Mitty’

Sinn Féin finance spokesperson said the Taoiseach’s latest comments are “a very serious matter” and accused the government of having fallen for its own spin.

The Taoiseach was quite clear that Professor Honohan contacted him on a Wednesday to tell him that the Army would be required on Friday to protect the ATMs and that capital controls would need to be introduced. He repeated this assertion several times. We now know that no such conversation took place.

Doherty said the matter needed to be clarified with the banking inquiry, of which he is a member and called on the Taoiseach to make a statement to the Dáil week “to set the record straight and lay the matter to rest”.

An Taoiseach has not only embarrassed himself in being caught out on his increasingly tall tales, but he was representing Ireland and has embarrassed the state as a result of these wild claims.

Fianna Fáil TD Willie O’Dea, a cabinet minister in the last government, said the Taoiseach “suffers from flights of fancy that makes Walter Mitty look positively unimaginative”.

“Enda Kenny seems to be living in a parallel universe, but he’s going to be brought back to reality shortly when he has to face the people,” the Limerick TD added.

The army and the ATMs: Was Enda talking about the ‘most secret committee in government’?

Read: Micheal Noonan doesn’t know if Enda was told army might need to guard ATMs

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About the author:

Hugh O'Connell

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