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Breakthrough: Jean-Claude Trichet could take part in the banking inquiry after all (sort of)

And you can thank Enda Kenny if he does.

Jean-Claude Trichet was head of the ECB between 2003 and 2011
Jean-Claude Trichet was head of the ECB between 2003 and 2011
Image: Press Association/AP

Updated 5pm 

THE FORMER HEAD of the European Central Bank (ECB), Jean-Claude Trichet, has indicated he would be willing to cooperate with the banking inquiry in some form having previously stated he could not.

The ECB’s refusal to cooperate with the Oireachtas committee investigating the causes of the Irish banking crash has caused controversy with the bank insistent that its legal responsibility is to the European and not the national parliament.

But in a letter to the inquiry, Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said he recently raised the matter with both Trichet and his successor Mario Draghi.

According to Kenny’s letter, Trichet has indicated that while it is not legally possible for him to go before a national parliamentary committee he could meet with Irish MEPs in Brussels to answer any relevant questions or an appropriate Irish institution or third party could invite him to Dublin where he could respond to questions.

The 11 TDs and Senators charged with investigating the collapse of the Irish banking system view Trichet as a key player.

He opposed the idea of burning Anglo bondholders and is said to have forced Ireland to issue a blanket guarantee of all assets and liabilities in the banking system.

‘Positive progression’

Speaking today, committee chairman Ciarán Lynch said it was “a positive progression from the ECB’s previous position” while noting that the inquiry itself had not yet received a response from the Frankfurt-based bank. 

“I have always said that this is not about individuals or personalities but about the information that the ECB would make available to the Committee to assist us in our work,” he said. 

honohan-2-2 The banking inquiry in session. Source: Oireachtas TV

“What we are seeking is a methodology with the ECB which gives the Committee information to clarify the positions that the Institution took during Ireland’s banking crisis in order to provide the Irish public with the fullest picture.

“Many pieces of the jigsaw of the financial crisis remain to be put in place, for example, the two years and two month period between the time of the guarantee up to the entry into the bailout programme and what engagement or role the ECB had with the Irish State during this time.”

‘Totally inadequate’

However, one of the two Fianna Fáil inquiry members, Michael McGrath, said that the ECB’s response is “totally inadequate”.

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He explained: “As I understand it the members of the inquiry can only consider the evidence that is presented directly to them when they come to write their report.

“Therefore any information that is put forward outside the terms of the inquiry itself is immediately devalued and its admissibility as evidence must be seriously open to question.”

Fine Gael TD John Paul Phelan welcomed the move by Trichet but said that the bank should publish the legal advice that it cannot appear before the committee itself.

“I think many people in Ireland will find it difficult to understand how Mr Draghi broke no laws in speaking to a German Parliamentary committee as he did in 2012, but now has legal advice saying the ECB can’t speak to an Irish parliamentary committee,” the Carlow-Kilkenny deputy said.

In a further boost for the inquiry, a bill designed to give it access to confidential Central Bank documents is before the Seanad today and is due before the Dáil next week.

First published 3pm

Previously: Sorry Ireland, Draghi says the ECB won’t be fronting the banking inquiry

Read: These are the letters sent between Brian Lenihan and the ECB before the bailout

About the author:

Hugh O'Connell

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