Belfast Telegraph

Cowen opposes quick bank closure

Closing the Anglo-Irish Bank quickly could cost 70 billion euro and would not be in the best interest of the taxpayer, Taoiseach Brian Cowen has said.

As European officials prepared to give their view on the future of Anglo, which is 8.2 billion euro in the red, Mr Cowen insisted the Government is united on the issue.

"The idea that it would be wound up with us having to come up with up-front costs of winding up that bank to the tune of 70 or further billions (euro) clearly would not be in the interests of the taxpayer," he said.

"We have been seeking to try to minimise the exposure to the taxpayer, deal with it that way. We are anxious to bring it to finality as soon as our discussions with the European Union are completed."

Mr Cowen said the Government is in advanced talks with European officials about the future of Anglo.

Finance Minister Brian Lenihan will discuss the matter with his European counterparts on Monday and Tuesday before reporting back to the Government.

At the start of the week Green senator Dan Boyle had called for an early wind-down of the bank over five years or less but it is understood Cabinet discussions on Wednesday finished with most ministers favouring a more orderly closure of Anglo over time.

Despite the appearance of a rift between sections of the coalition, Mr Cowen insisted: "The Government is at one on this and always has been. The issue that is determining the Government's policy on this issue is how do we minimise exposures to the taxpayer, which is already considerable."

Anglo chairman Alan Dukes this week said the bank preferred to see a good-bank/bad-bank scenario with 80% wound up and a new bank created from the remaining good-quality loan assets.

The state-run bank, which has been funded to the tune of 23 billion euro (£18.9 billion) of taxpayers' money, said it expected further losses when more assets are shifted off the bank's books.

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