Tape recordings from inside doomed Anglo Irish Bank have shown how the bank's top executives lied to the Government about the true extent of losses at the institution.
The tapes, revealed by the Belfast Telegraph's sister newspaper, The Irish Independent, show senior manager John Bowe, who had been involved in negotiations with the Irish Central Bank, laughing and joking as he tells another senior manager, Peter Fitzgerald, how Anglo was luring the State into giving it billions of euro.
Mr Fitzgerald had not been involved in the negotiations with the Central Bank and has confirmed he was unaware of any strategy or intention to mislead the authorities. In a statement Mr Bowe categorically denied that he had misled the Central Bank.
The audio recordings are from the bank's own internal telephone system and date from the heart of the financial crisis that brought the Republic to its knees in September 2008.
Anglo was within days of complete meltdown – and in the years ahead would eat up €30bn (£25bn) of taxpayer money. Mr Bowe speaks about how the State had been asked for €7bn (£6bn) to bail out Anglo – but Anglo's negotiators knew all along this was not enough to save the bank. The plan was that once the State began the flow of money, it would be unable to stop.
Mr Bowe is asked by Mr Fitzgerald how they had come up with the figure of €7bn. He laughs as he is taped saying: "Just, as Drummer (then-CEO David Drumm) would say, 'picked it out of my arse'."
Irish Finance Minister Michael Noonan said had no idea the Anglo tapes existed until he read yesterday's Irish Independent.
Mr Noonan – who was an opposition backbencher in 2008 but made several speeches on the banking crisis at the time – said he "always believed that Anglo had a lot to answer for".
Taoiseach Enda Kenny said he understood the "outright anger" the tapes provoked among the public and said the government must get any banking inquiry right.