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Noonan doesn't know how many people had access to missing bank guarantee letters

The Finance Minister has said the search is continuing for two letters that have gone missing from the Department of Finance.

What the Department of Finance was able to recover of two letters which went missing from its records.
What the Department of Finance was able to recover of two letters which went missing from its records.

FINANCE MINISTER MICHAEL Noonan is not able to say the exact number of personnel who would have had access to two letters related to the period around the bank guarantee which have gone missing in the Department of Finance.

In answers to a series of parliamentary questions this week, the Minister shed more light on the Department of Finance’s loss of two letters that were copied to then-finance minister Brian Lenihan in January 2009 concerning possible investment in Bank of Ireland.

However, it appears officials are no closer to finding the documents, the disappearance of which was uncovered by Sinn Féin TD Pearse Doherty through Freedom of Information.

Copies of both letters are only available in almost entirely redacted form, although one of them has been partially recovered by officials in the Department through the ministerial representation tracking system.

In his written answers this week, Noonan said that the the documents would have been retained by the Banking Division of the Department of Finance where staff would “handle a lot sensitive and confidential information in their daily work”.

However he said it was not possible to indicate the exact number of personnel who would have had access to these letters since they came into the Department in early 2009.

Noonan said: “The number of personnel in the division would have varied from time to time since that date given changes in functions and personnel to deal with the banking crisis.

“It would not be possible to indicate the exact number of personnel who would have access to these letters over the time since they were received.”

Last night, the Department of Finance said a total of 19 people are currently working in the Banking Division including one specialist on secondment. A spokesperson was unable to provide historical staffing numbers.

“As you are aware the organisational structure of the Department of Finance has been reformed since 2008,” the spokesperson said. “Compiling historical figures for staff working in the area of banking would require a much more detailed analysis of staff numbers.”

In his written answers Noonan also outlined the content of the recovered letter – which this website has already disclosed – from Richard Burrows, Bank of Ireland’s governor at the time, to tax consultant Noel Corcoran, who was representing the Jupiter Group.

In the letter, Burrows indicated that Bank of Ireland – which would receive €3.5 billion from the government less than fortnight later – was not open to outside investment and wanted to remain independent.

The Minister has previously said that officials are examining whether the letters can be recovered from the bank and the consultant.

BOI declined to comment while Corcoran has not responded to calls.

Noonan reiterated in his answers this week that a search has already been carried out to locate the missing documentation and said that officials are “continuing” their efforts to locate the two letters, including repeating some of the original searches and also examining other areas of the Department where they might be found.

Read: Noonan may ask Bank of Ireland for missing bank guarantee documents

Read: ‘We need to get to the bottom of this’: More details sought on missing bank guarantee letters

How we broke the story: The Department of Finance has lost letters connected to the bank guarantee

About the author:

Hugh O'Connell

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