Belfast Telegraph

Cowen blames the bankers for Ireland's economic crash

By Brian Hutton

Former Irish premier Brian Cowen, who presided over his country's downfall into economic chaos, has blamed bankers as the main culprits.

In evidence to the Oireachtas Banking Inquiry, the ex-Taoiseach defended his Fianna Fail-led government which "worked tirelessly to do its duty in the most difficult circumstances". But while he vowed not to "pass the buck" and to accept responsibility for his role, he pointed the finger squarely at Irish lenders.

"It is important to recognise that there was reckless lending by individual banks, made worse by a bonus culture incentivising short-term gains," he said.

Referring to a report by Central Bank chief Patrick Honohan, Mr Cowen added: "The primary responsibility of the crisis rests with the banks themselves."

He also accused Irish and European regulatory systems of having "failed completely" to predict the extent of the crash.

On his late-night decision to bring in a blanket guarantee for six banks at the height of the financial turmoil in September 2008 - which will cost Irish people €64bn (£45bn) - he said it was the "least worst option. It was clear that we were on our own," he added. "We had one shot at it. If we did not get it right, Ireland, we were told, would be set back 25 years. We had to go with the best information available to us at the time."

Belfast Telegraph

Weekly Business Digest Newsletter

This week's business news headlines, directly to your inbox every Tuesday.