FROM what we had hoped would be a much more robust inquiry into the factors and decisions that led to the blanket bank guarantee given by the Irish government almost seven years ago, the Oireachtas Joint Committee of Inquiry into the Banking Crisis has become a tiresome parade of set-piece nonsense, following a rather predictable format where bankers, financial regulators, civil servants, politicians, etc come in, answer questions, make their excuses for the way they handled things on their watch, apologise for the mess that was made – which they all claim was not really their fault – and then disappear below the radar again.
This month, we had the testimonies of three former Ministers for Finance – two of them also former taoisigh – Fianna Fáil’s Charlie McCreevy, Brian Cowen and Bertie Ahern. First up, McCreevy was not very forthcoming and had to be warned by inquiry chairman Ciarán Lynch about his obligation to answer questions put to him – but, when he did, was not prepared to accept that any of the policies during his tenure in Finance had led to the economic collapse.
His successor as Minister for Finance, Brian Cowen, was somewhat more forthcoming and contrite, but blamed nearly everybody else for the mess, mainly the banks. He opined that the government found themselves having to make crucial decisions without all the pertinent facts at their disposal.
Star witness Bertie Ahern seemed to have acquired a new coating of Teflon as he gave his version of events ahead of his jumping ship before the banking collapse, also appearing suitably contrite and apologetic with the benefit of hindsight. But again it was like closing the stable door after the horse had bolted.
The government had hoped the inquiry would embarrass and discredit Fianna Fáil further, but the evidence given so far has been a damp squib, spreading the blame much wider. Ahern, Cowen and McCreevy came across more as hapless victims of circumstances rather than as architects of the debacle.