Belfast Telegraph

Ministers defend Honohan over tapes

Government ministers have defended Central Bank governor Patrick Honohan for not listening to all controversial taped conversations of former Anglo Irish Bank executives.

While the Taoiseach declined to discuss the tapes as trials are pending, Public Expenditure and Reform Minister Brendan Howlin said it made no difference whether the regulator heard all the discussions or not.

"Bluntly, whether I heard them or Patrick Honohan heard them is less important than (whether) those who are going to make a decision in relation to prosecutions having heard them," Mr Howlin said.

"I would expect that the agencies in this state charged with the investigation of any potential criminality would have access to all data, including tapes, documentation, everything that they need, to come to firm conclusions in relation to what should be prosecuted and who should be prosecuted."

Earlier, Mr Howlin was branded an "idiot" by Sinn Fein deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald, who urged the Government to tell the governor it was not appropriate for him to "sit on his hands".

Yesterday, regulator Mr Honohan said there was no new evidence on the Anglo Tapes to suggest any criminality - even though he had not listened to all the recordings.

The leaked recordings, which involved senior bankers at the toxic lender as they prepared to secure an initial bailout, indicated they planned to seek an initial seven billion euro bailout.

Mr Honohan said the recordings were not a smoking gun.

Meanwhile, Mr Howlin said people had been left shocked and disgusted by the tapes.

"From the Government's perspective we would expect that where criminality has occurred that the prosecuting authorities, who are gathering slowly but I think very thoroughly all the evidence they can, would bring that before the courts in due course," he said.

"And we don't want to say anything that would in any way give any shield to anybody for not being accountable before the courts."

Finance Minister Michael Noonan added that it was up to the Central Bank to make its own judgments on the tapes.

"The Central Bank is independent in the exercise of its functions and I don't have a different view," he said.

Mr Noonan said he did not want to contaminate any potential evidence in the tapes by commenting on them.

Elsewhere, as plans for an Oireachtas inquiry into the September 2008 blanket bank guarantee and events surrounding it get under way, the Taoiseach hinted it could be limited in its probe.

"The Oireachtas has to set out about holding its parliamentary inquiry within the remit and the range of what it can, and that process will continue," Mr Kenny said.

Speaking at the final day of the National Ploughing Championships in Co Laois, he said that the Government would consider giving the Central Bank more powers to regulate the country's banks as they tackle the ongoing mortgage crisis.

One of the controversial recordings on the Anglo tapes outlined how Anglo bosses were ordered by former chief executive David Drumm, now based in the United States, to go to the Central Bank with ''arms swinging'' to demand ''moolah''.

The executives featuring in the tapes have denied any wrongdoing.

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