It is widely assumed that the banks were pleading for help when they rang the Minister for Finance, Brian Lenihan last Sunday night.
Wrong – The banks were summoning the Minister to instruct him on what action they required of him.
And it’s not just the Minister who jumps when the banks come calling; the so called Financial Regulator and Central Bank also dance to whatever tune the banks are playing.
Up until last weekend the tune was simple – No matter what the evidence is, no matter how stupid you look, you are to maintain the charade that Irish banks, unique in the world, are not in any kind of trouble, you are to deny all suggestions that we have recklessly loaned out billions to property speculators and developers.
As recently as 6th Sep last Lenihan was doing what he was told.
“I can assure your listeners that the Regulator has maintained a very detailed supervision of Irish banks and that the Irish banks are not in anything like the difficulties that their counterparts in the US are.”
Here’s what I had to say about the Minister’s comments (Link as above).
“This Minister knows nothing about the real situation because his information comes from the Central Bank and the so called Financial Regulator who take their orders from the banks. Taxpayers should hold on tightly to their wallets, the banks will soon be looking to do some more pick pocketing.”
Now, €400 billion later the Minister, regulatory authorities and the taxpayer are dancing to the banker’s new tune.
Even the experts don’t seem to know what’s really happening. Economist David McWilliams, who was first to openly state that Irish banks were in trouble, is naïve in the extreme when it comes to his views on how the banks should pay for their sins. He’s worth quoting at length (RTE, 1st report, 2nd item).
“I would hope that the Government moves very quickly to replace the senior management of many of the banks that have behaved extremely recklessly. And that means by making board appointments of outside people, not civil servants, but people who have the national interest at heart. The Government guarantee cannot come for free, it can’t be a blank cheque, it has to come with strings attached…Brian Lenihan and his advisors are in the driving seat and if they think about their position they can change the way Irish banking works.”
“We’ve got to get rid of Gombeenism; we’ve got to get rid of the proximity between developers, banks and the Government. We’ve got to get rid of these idiosyncratic ways in which our society was run for the last four or five years.”
Like most Irish citizens, McWilliams seems to be completely and innocently unaware of the kind of country he lives in; he genuinely seems to believe that Ireland is a normal democratic country.
His reference to Gombeenism and our idiosyncratic ways might just be the beginning of a realisation that Ireland is unlike any other Western state, that there is something seriously dysfunctional about the way our country is governed.
We at Public Inquiry have been shouting the message for years – Ireland is a corrupt state, the politicians do not work in the interests of the people, the civil servants for the most part serve the politicians and the Government, not the people. Banks and other big business do as they please with impunity; they are never, ever brought to account. How long will it take before the message gets through?
Next week, when the bankers finally reveal the details of their plan, when they tell us what decisions they have made regarding the future of our country, we will hear a lot waffle, a lot of weasel words and a lot of breast beating from our politicians but believe me there will be no challenge to the status quo.
There will be no sacking of senior bank management, there will be no appointment of outsiders to bank boards or if there is they will be given the job of making the coffee. There will be no financial cost to the banks; there will be no strings attached to the deal because it is the banks that are calling the shots.
Our politicians are nothing more than messenger boys for the real power in this country.