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Was Enda really warned that the army might need to guard ATMs?

One person says they’re “puzzled” the Taoiseach made the claim.

Image: RollingNews.ie

Updated 6.23pm

THE TAOISEACH HAS today repeated his claim that he was warned that the army might be needed to protect banks and ATM machines at the height of the financial crisis.

Enda Kenny claimed that during the crisis he was being warned by the Central Bank governor Patrick Honohan that the government might have to introduce capital controls and call in security forces to protect banks and ATMs.

Speaking at the European People’s Party conference in Madrid today, he told delegates:

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.

By our count, it’s the fourth time this year that Kenny has made the claim.

Today he has faced calls to clarify his comments and explain why he never mentioned the briefing from Honohan when giving evidence to the banking inquiry.

Sinn Féin TD Pearse Doherty said he has written to the inquiry, of which he is a member, to ask that further clarification be sought from Honohan and Kenny.

In fact it’s the second time this week Kenny has made the claim. On Tuesday, during questions in the Dáil, he told Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin:

I have said it before publicly that the governor of the Central Bank said to me that it was quite likely that in a particular week it could have been necessary to put the Army around automated teller machines and tell people that capital controls would have to be introduced, which would have been absolutely disastrous for people in Ireland. That was avoided. 

Previously, on October 7, he told attendees at a Fine Gael breakfast fundraiser in Dublin:

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. We may well have to print money, we may well have to introduce capital controls, this is not going to be nice.’

2/9/2015 Enda Kenny Source: Mark Stedman

In an even more public forum than that, Kenny was quoted making similar remarks in late June, during the height of the Greek bailout crisis:

Pretty shortly after the Government was elected we were given very clear warnings about the economic difficulties we faced, to the effect that we might need to restrict capital outflows from the banks, and to have the army surround ATM machines.

While Kenny’s Defence Minister, Simon Coveney, also made remarks about the warning nearly a year ago, telling Newstalk on 28 November 2014:

The Taoiseach was getting briefed by the Central Bank that actually he needed to have a fall-back position whereby the army may have to surround banks to protect them because we could literally run out of money.

Kenny is now facing calls to substantiate the claims.

Fianna Fáil finance spokesperson Micheal McGrath said he previously sought information on the briefing, but was told that the Central Bank would have no role in relation to briefing on security deployment.

McGrath also noted that no such information was presented to the banking inquiry by either Kenny or Honohan.

One would assume that had it actually happened in the manner described the Taoiseach would have been keen to advise the public of this when he gave his sworn evidence to the Inquiry.

Doherty was also sceptical about Kenny’s claim, saying: “Is the Taoiseach being truthful, or is this another tale of the man with two pints?

The path now is clear; the Taoiseach and Patrick Honohan must state publicly what situation could have led to a conversation where the Governor of the Central Bank advised the Taoiseach to ready the army and to prepare to install capital controls in Ireland.

Today TheJournal.ie asked the Central Bank, Defence Forces and the Taoiseach’s office if any evidence of this advice exists.

The Central Bank declined to comment as did the Defence Forces, a spokesperson saying:

The Department of Defence does not comment on contingency planning in relation to security matters.

The Department of the Taoiseach did not return a request for comment at the time of publication.

One informed source, who declined to be named, said they were “puzzled” when Coveney made the remarks a year ago.

Of the Taoiseach’s comments today, they added: “We’re still puzzled.”

- with reporting from Paul Hosford 

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Hugh O'Connell

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