It is time for Finance Minister to answer his own call to patriotic duty

March 6th, 2009 - Pat Breen

Speaking during the Fine Gael Private Members Motion on the crisis in the Irish Banking System Deputy Breen said ” I welcome the opportunity to contribute to the debate tonight.  Like my colleagues, I congratulate Deputy Bruton on bringing this motion before the House.  Confidence needs to be restored to the banking system and the only way to do this, as Deputy Bruton stated last night, is by way of a comprehensive clean out in management of banks.  We all saw the pictures on television last night of gardaí raiding Anglo Irish Bank.  It is a little late, like closing the stable door when the horse has bolted.  Permanent damage has already been done to the image of our banking system worldwide and it is no surprise that the international community has lost confidence also.  The crisis in Anglo Irish Bank exposes the failure of the financial regulatory system to protect the consumer and the taxpayer.

  The level of exposure to bad debt is now a considerable concern.  According to last Sunday’s edition of The Sunday Times, 20 unnamed customers owe the bank a total of €11.4 billion, representing more than 25% of its total Irish loan book, while in Britain the top 20 customers account for 46% of the loan book.  The PWC report published last week also described substantial exposure.  The crisis in our banking system exposes the cronyism between developers and the Government which has destroyed our reputation and brought this country to its knees, and all those bankers who caused this are leaving with golden handshakes.  It is grotesque, unbelievable, bizarre and unprecedented – words from the past.  Is it any wonder there is such anger?  We have not witnessed such anger in protests on the streets of Ireland since the 1970s.  While all are willing to pay their fair share they want the same standards to apply to all, fairness and equality.

  Tonight the Government will force through the pensions levy while Fine Gael opposes it because it is unfair.  It penalises the lower paid State employees.  Unlike the income levy, for instance, there is no provision to protect those on low pay who do not receive any tax relief on it nor any pension benefits in excess of the State contributory pension.


 While the Government stumbles from plan to plan every sector of our economy is struggling.  Look at what is happening in the HSE, which faces a €1 billion budgetary deficit for 2009.  I understand that the HSE is considering the closure of a number of hospitals – four to 12.  Tomorrow I will ask the Tánaiste whether the HSE will close Ennis General Hospital because some people have stated that it has been discussed at a meeting.  I am on record as stating that the HSE will use the HIQA report on the misdiagnosis at Ennis General Hospital to further downgrade and close the hospital.  I am not scaremongering and I want clarity on this tomorrow.

  Returning to the banking crisis, it is quite clear that the lessons of the Ansbacher debacle have not been learned.  Questions arose then on the effectiveness of our financial regulatory systems and it is vital that we put faith in and re-establish our banking institutions.  Nobody wants to see our banks destabilised because of the actions of a few.  We need to restore our international credibility because billions of euro have poured out of the country in recent weeks.

  I found the following quote from the great car maker Henry Ford the other night as I was researching this: “It is well enough that people of the nation do not understand our banking and monetary system, for if they did, I believe there would be a revolution before tomorrow morning.”  The people of Ireland are now only too familiar with our banking system.  They are the victims of the system.  It is time for the Minister for Finance to answer his own call to patriotic duty.  I would appeal to the House to support the Fine Gael motion and help rebuild the Irish banking system.