The banking system in Ireland has managed to do itself a significant amount of self inflicted damage. They did this by over lending and offering easy credit as each bank tried to get more customers through the door than the other.
When the American banking system went into turmoil, there was a banking inquiry set up almost immediately which is now near completion. In Ireland the government has somewhat belatedly decided to set up a banking inquiry. It is an opportunity for the banking system to restore some level of trust with the public.
In my opinion, the best way to restoring trust is to have an open and transparent public inquiry into what went on with the banking system over the last number of years. Unfortunately this government has decided to hold the inquiry in private. This will mean that the inquiry in the public’s mind will have less credibility than if it was held in public.
Since this is the situation that we have been left with by Fianna Fáil we must hope that all the parties who need to answer questions will cooperate fully with the inquiry. I cite the example of the Murphy investigation into child abuse where the people at the head of the church agreed in public to participate and cooperate with the investigation before it started. I now call on the head of all of the banks, relating to the time period for the duration of the inquiry’s investigation, to state publicly that they will cooperate fully with the banking investigation.
The public has little or no trust in the banking system in this country anymore, as my colleague George Lee said “The collapse of trust has led to the breakdown of the banking system and a further deterioration in faith in the regulatory system.” We need to restore this trust, and although I fundamentally believe this could have been best arrived at through a transparent, public inquiry, we must deal with the situation that Fianna Fáil and the Greens have presented to us.
In dealing with this situation, we must demand that the people who got Ireland into this economic mess are held accountable and they show themselves that they are willing to be held to account. Given this situation, they can now do this by stating that they will fully cooperate will the inquiry and will not obstruct it in anyway. It is also my belief that in order to start the process of rebuilding trust, the people who were responsible should admit that they have done wrong and apologise to the Irish public.
When the inquiry publishes its findings, I hope that it will show us quite clearly what went wrong, who was responsible, and gives us a set of recommendations that will ensure that we will never have a repeat of this type of irresponsible behaviour again.