Castleknock, Dublin, sometime in September 2008, mid-night
Brian, Brian, wake up, shakes him gently.
Trish what, what time is it?
There’s someone at the door. Sounds like a couple of people.
Gets up, looks out window,
Oh God it’s the lads from the department. Go back to sleep love, I might be a while.
Come in, come in. I’ll put the kettle on, we‘ll use the kitchen. So… it must be serious lads, you’re both ashen faced.
Yes Minister, the central bank hasn’t stopped ringing and more from Sean Fitz. They’re in big trouble.
Right, right, but we knew this already, sure there was a run on the deposits in the past weeks. What’s the issue now?
They’re broke Minister, they’ve nothing left and the Germans are looking for their money.
Brian stands up, gets the kettle and pours hot water into the pot, rinses. Three tea bags, fills it and brings it to the table, sits down.
We’ll let it draw a while.
Okay, we’ve already spoken about this and voiced our concerns, as recently as yesterday so, what exactly is needed from the Irish Government at this point?
They want us to bail them out Minister.
Pours three cups.
Milk and sugar?
Takes a sip and looks at Ireland’s two most senior department of Finance officials sitting in front of him.
Gentlemen, as I’ve told you many times before, I was elected by the good people of Ireland whom I now represent in Government. I serve no purpose other than to articulate their interest. With a very small exception, a tiny exception, none of these people hold Anglo Irish accounts. None gentlemen. I mention this by way of explanation as to why this government has no intention of intervening in this bank’s problems. Be clear about this in your communications to the central bank and to Mr. Fitzpatrick. At today’s cabinet meeting Brian Cowen made it clear to me and the other department heads that we are a party of the people, elected by the people and whose mandate comes from the people. Our voters have nothing to do with this bank, so why are you persisting with this line of enquiry.
Minister, there will be a run on other banks too; we believe AIB is similarly over-exposed. When the people look for their money, there will be none left and civil unrest will follow.
Once again Gentlemen, this Government is not about to gamble the public purse on the outcome of a crap shoot by the canal bank. They invested, they gambled and when they won they shoved it into my constituents with their vulgarity and extravagance. My constituents did not profit in the good times, not one iota. And now the tide has turned, as we advised it would on numerous occasions in the past 18 months, now the banks come calling with their begging bowls.
No gentlemen, once again no, no to Anglo Irish and no to Allied Irish. We will look at trying to provide a rescue package to those owner occupiers who are most at risk, some sort of compensations scheme which would allow this unfortunate negative equity group to move house and not be bankrupted in the process. Beyond this, nothing.
Minister, I implore you to reconsider. Europe will not look kindly on this. Look you know the pressure we came under after the last farrago.
Europe, what has Europe got to do with Ireland managing its own affairs. This is an internal matter not a federal issue. The Taoiseach has spoken at length with his European counterparts and explained how this situation is a specific and clearly differentiable problem, set apart from Ireland’s central economy. He named the companies involved, both of you know the ten names, the ten entities at the root of this problem.
Yes, there will be a run on the banks. The run on Anglo is not a state issue. Allied Irish bank will be a concern but on the balance of probabilities, it is better that this Government sits on its hands for the moment and is also clearly seen as taking a stand against these mercenaries.
But Minster, the riots, the chaos, the confusion, the markets………..
This Government has a finite capacity and resources. We have five million citizens. The world economy is making an adjustment right now and we must be vigilant over the coming months and years managing our scarce resources for the benefit of all our people. We cannot afford to bail or guarantee these banks who so carelessly gambled with their share holder’s equity. The Irish economy is not a casino.
How will we trade Minister?
Gentlemen it’s late, please. There will be a queue of banks waiting to take the places of those foolish enough to have gambled. Not all are similarly as exposed, either here at home or elsewhere. Our economy is not 100% dependent on building houses, apartments, hotels and shopping centres. Do the math please. It might be 10%. No gentlemen, the captain has turned on the seatbelt sign, there’s turbulence up ahead yes, but only that.