Belfast Telegraph

Irish PM Enda Kenny: My remarks on mad borrowing taken out of context

By Maeve Dineen in Davos, Fiach Kelly and Barry Duggan

Taoiseach Enda Kenny last night claimed his controversial comments that "mad borrowing" by Irish people caused the economic crash were taken out of context -- as a string of cabinet ministers rushed to defend him.

Mr Kenny was eventually forced to clarify his comments at the World Economic Forum in Davos by American broadcasters after the highly unusual move of refusing to speak to Irish reporters covering the prestigious event.

Mr Kenny said he had already made it clear in last month's state of the nation that "it was not the people's fault". In December's address, Mr Kenny told Irish people: "You are not responsible for this crisis."

On Thursday, Mr Kenny said Ireland's personal wealth during the boom was created "totally on credit" and "was done between people, banks and a system that spawned greed to a point where this went out of control completely with a spectacular crash".

Last night, the Taoiseach said his comments at a Davos forum were placed in context with other factors that caused the crash.

On a panel discussion with the Danish prime minister and the Finnish prime minister, I set in context what happened in Ireland," Mr Kenny told CNN.

"We had very poor regulation, we had incompetent government, we had a system in the banking regime that paid big bonuses on volume lending that meant that developers -- in the sense of buying and proposing schemes that could never be paid for by people -- brought our country over the edge. And I set that in context very clearly."

Irish Environment Minister Phil Hogan said: "People who have been parsing and analysing pronouns should get a grip of themselves", while Dr Reilly said there was "absolutely no doubt" people had been encouraged to borrow by reckless lenders in banks.

Irish businessman Denis O'Brien, also attending the Davos conference, also defended the Taoiseach's remarks. He said that while they were important, Mr Kenny's presence in Davos was more significant -- and created a "buzz about Ireland".

"He should be applauded not in any way criticised," Mr O'Brien said. "We are the only country in Europe that, after making difficult decisions to fix our economy, will meet our promises."

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