No bank bailout’ claim by Micheál Martin leads to uproar
Comments by Taoiseach Micheál Martin sparked uproar.
December 17 2020 02:30 AM
Taoiseach Micheál Martin has been accused of trying to rewrite history by claiming the last Fianna Fáil government did not bail out the banks during the financial crisis.
The bizarre claim by the Fianna Fáil leader was met with shock by former Cabinet colleagues who signed off on the €64bn bailout.
However, last night the Taoiseach’s spokesperson doubled down on his claims saying: “The State injected equity into the banks so the banking system could continue to function to protect jobs and support economic recovery.”
Labour Party leader Alan Kelly accused the Taoiseach of “revisionism of the worst kind”.
“If he thinks that he’s going to wipe out what Fianna Fáil did to my generation, and to every generation after us by putting out Trumpian comments like that, he’s sadly mistaken,” Mr Kelly said.
Meanwhile, former Fianna Fáil cabinet minister Éamon Ó Cuív said the then government “did bail out out the banks but did not bail out the bank shareholders”.
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“It is unfortunately true that many bank executives escaped without serious sanctions for their failures,” he added.
Limerick City Fianna Fáil TD Willie O’Dea, who was also a minister in that government, said: “I did hear it. I was a little bit surprised and taken aback, that’s all I’ll say.”
Another former Fianna Fáil cabinet minister who signed off on the deal said they “nearly fell out of my standing” when they heard the quote, but stoutly declined to go on the record.
Speaking to RTÉ Radio One’s Drivetime Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien initially said the “financial system was supported”, adding that he wasn’t in the Dáil for Mr Martin’s comments. “Everyone knows what happened 10 years ago,” he added.
Put to him that Mr Martin seems not to remember, Mr O’Brien eventually admitted: “There was obviously equity put into the banks so the banks didn’t fail… one of the ways of describing that is indeed a bailout.”
Former Tánaiste Joan Burton, who was Labour’s finance spokesperson at the time, said it is “extraordinary” if Mr Martin believes “bailing out the banks was some kind of classy investment”.
“Anyone who would suggest that the money put into Anglo Irish Bank was some kind of investment is wrong.”
Mr Martin’s claim was made during a Dáil debate over the long-running controversy over redundancy owed to Debenhams workers who lost their jobs when the retail outlet closed earlier this year.
People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett criticised the Taoiseach for previously claiming he could not pay €18m in State redundancy to the workers because it would set a precedent.
“The Taoiseach did not mind setting a precedent when it came to bailing out banks to the tune of €64bn,” Mr Boyd Barrett said.
Mr Martin reacted angrily saying he was “sickened” by Mr Boyd Barrett’s comment and added: “The banks were not bailed out.”
“The shareholders were not bailed out. That is not a popular thing to say, but it is a fact,” he added.
Mr Martin claimed Mr Boyd Barrett was unrealistic when it came to the facts. “Deputy Boyd Barrett never wants to hear the facts because he lives in a fantasy economic wonderland.
“If his party ever got into power thousands of jobs would migrate from this country. That is the reality,” Mr Martin said.
Debenhams workers have been picketing outside shops across the country since they were made redundant in April.
They are protesting over the company’s refusal to pay them any redundancy on top of the statutory amount they receive from the State.