Leaders’ Questions

I wish to ask the Taoiseach about the bonus culture that is alive and well in the banks. The Minister for Finance gave misleading information to the Dáil recently when he stated that no bonuses were being paid. The information provided by the Minister was given to him falsely by Bank of Ireland in respect of bonuses paid to personnel working in that institution. In the context of accountability, has the Government ascertained the circumstances in which a person or persons in Bank of Ireland informed the Minister for Finance that bonuses were not paid and, if so, who authorised that? Second, what is the significance and role of the public interest directors in this matter? Were they asleep when this information was given to the Minister for Finance? The Taoiseach is aware that €3.5 billion already has been paid to this bank with more to follow. The point is that the increased taxes, levies and charges being paid by each worker in the country go exclusively to pay these bonuses and this is not right.


Hear, hear.

These banks are running rings around the Government. Has the Taoiseach or the Department of Finance determined who authorised the giving of false information to the Minister for Finance? Second, has the Taoiseach sought a report from the public interest directors, who should have been aware that such bonuses were being paid? Third, can the Taoiseach inform the House how much money has been paid out in bonuses to personnel in Bank of Ireland? Is it the Taoiseach's intention to claw this back through a tax rate of 90%?

Information provided by Bank of Ireland to the Department of Finance to the effect that no performance-related bonuses were paid was incorrect. The bank has apologised to the Department for this and the Minister for Finance views this issue very seriously. An intensive investigation of the additional payments made by Bank of Ireland since the introduction of the guarantee scheme is under way. The Minister is eager to see this investigation concluded as quickly as possible and if wrongdoing is found to have occurred, there will, of course, be consequences. Any additional information which comes to light will be made available to the House.

That is not what was asked.

I asked the Taoiseach a couple of other questions. I asked him what is the responsibility and role of the public interest directors. Has the Taoiseach ascertained from them whether any information was given about these bonuses? Second, how much money has been paid out in such bonuses? Are Members to believe the Taoiseach, who is the Head of Government, does not know or has not the information to hand on how much has been paid out in such bonuses when each worker in the country is paying for them?

The point is that it appears as though the Government does not understand the gulf of unfairness that exists in Ireland today. People in their thousands wish to help to get the country out of the mess into which the Government and its predecessors have led us. While they wish to help, they want their contribution to be respected and to be fair, but this is not fair. Moreover, the bonus culture is not simply confined to the banks. For example, the chief executive of NAMA, gets a salary of €430,000, plus a 60% bonus.

The chief executive of the NTMA earns almost half a million euro and receives an 80% bonus.

That is nearly as much as Robbie Keane.

Moreover, no public service pay cuts have been applied to the NTMA. This must end, as the workers who will receive reduced salaries over the coming weeks know full well that the decreases in their salaries are going to pay these banks and bonuses and the Taoiseach should put a stop to it. The Fine Gael Party proposed a legislative amendment to the effect that when such bonuses were paid, they would be clawed back.


Hear, hear.

I will repeat my question, namely, how much has been paid in bonuses to Bank of Ireland officials? What has been the responsibility of the public interest directors? Has the Taoiseach called in Mr. Walsh and his colleague to make a report? Does the Taoiseach intend to claw back and put an end to this bonus culture that is driving a sense of unfairness in people and which in part is causing the anger and frustration that is evident in public meetings nationwide? If the Taoiseach is in charge, he should demonstrate it.


Hear, hear.

The Government is in charge. When the Department of Finance obtained the information that this was the case, having been told incorrectly that there were no performance related bonuses, it took up the case and an extensive investigation is being carried out. I have made it clear that consequences will follow if wrongdoing is proved to have taken place. I and the Government would condemn any situation which did not comply with the directive the Government gave on these matters. Information was sought, misinformation was obtained, apologies were tendered by the chief executive of Bank of Ireland to the Minister and Department, an intensive investigation is taking place and as soon as that has been completed we will provide all the details to the House. That is a proper exercise in accountability.

How much is involved ?

When the investigation is completed we will know how much is involved. The investigation is under way.

The Taoiseach does not know.

This issue was raised in a parliamentary question tabled by Deputy Burton last week to the Minister for Finance, Deputy Lenihan.

The Taoiseach paid him €3.5 million.

The issue has been taken up at the highest level. The Government indicated it was not acceptable. We sought detailed information by way of investigation and we are now going to ensure that the details are provided to the House and the public. The people will know that if any wrongdoing was done it will be followed up and there will be serious consequences——


——as soon as possible when the investigation has been completed.

False information was given in the first place.

This country needs a new Government that can deal with the problems that are facing the people, can come to grips with the need to get people back to work, get some confidence back into the economy, get a fresh start and enable people to move on from the mess that Fianna Fáil has created. A new Government is needed which can deal with the issue of bonuses paid by banks, which was raised by Deputy Kenny, with some authority. We need a Government which has the authority and confidence of the people and can stand up for Ireland, deal with international institutions and renegotiate the EU and IMF deal.

We need a Government which has a horizon of four to five years to take the necessary decisions to bring about the changes that are needed in the country. We do not have such a Government. We have a dysfunctional Government. The Taoiseach survived a Fianna Fáil motion of confidence yesterday, which is the party's business. However, he does not enjoy the confidence of a majority of the Members of the House. He and his Government do not enjoy the confidence of the people. Some nine out of every ten people in the country have no confidence in the Government and want it out of office.

The Green Party has clearly lost confidence in the future of the Government because it has announced its intended withdrawal from it. Some Ministers have clearly lost confidence in the ability of the Government to be re-elected because they do not propose to stand for re-election.

Can we have a question soon, please?

Several of the Taoiseach's parliamentary colleagues voted no confidence in him yesterday. Others would have done the same but they thought the timing was wrong.

We returned here after Christmas to deal with the finance Bill. It could be dealt with in a couple of weeks but the Taoiseach has given every excuse under the sun to try to cling on to power for as long as possible. He has given indicative dates and has referred to the Taoiseach's prerogative to call an election. There is a motion of no confidence in the Government, tabled by the Labour Party, before the Taoiseach. Will he debate it this week? He has said repeatedly that he will remain Taoiseach as long as he and the Government has the confidence of the House. Let us put it to the test.

I totally reject the idea that the Government is not operating effectively and doing its job. We have returned for the final term of this Dáil for good reason, as the Deputy knows. We need to enact the finance Bill and other related Bills, as well the Climate Change Response Bill and others. We have also entered into international obligations which have to be discharged in the first quarter of this year. When that is done the Dáil will be dissolved and the election will take place. We have made that very clear.

The motion of no confidence has been tabled by the Labour Party. I have dealt with such motions on a few occasions. It can be taken in the Labour Party's own time. We have work to do. I am confident that I will enjoy the confidence of the House when the motion is put. It will be tested again in due course. This is not the time for politics as usual from the Deputy. The Government needs to get on with its business professionally, competently and comprehensively and complete its legislative programme within the timeframe we set out. Thereafter, we will dissolve the Dáil and have a debate about who will govern the country. That is the situation, as the Deputy knows, and that is the way it will remain.

It is the Taoiseach who is insisting on politics as usual. The reality is that the people of the country want the Government out of office fast. They want that to happen because they want to move on. The country is stuck in the mire and will stay there as long as the Government clings on to office from one month to the next. People want to move on. We wanted to bring about recovery, get some confidence back into the country and put a new Government in place in order to deal with the problems with some authority.

Can we have a question please, Deputy?

The Taoiseach said he will deal with the motion of no confidence in the normal manner and that he faced them before. Every motion of no confidence in the Government tabled by Fine Gael or the Labour Party for as long as I can recall has been dealt with by the Government immediately. The Taoiseach is running away from the motion of no confidence and does not want to put it to the test. He announced this morning that the former Minister, Deputy Martin, had resigned from Government. A new member of the Government is usually appointed and the motion is put to the Dáil.

The Taoiseach is now doing everything he possibly can to move away from having his case tested in the Dáil and is delaying for as long as possible from having it tested in the country. We heard today that discussions will take place between the Taoiseach and the Green Party on a timetable for the remainder of the Dáil. Can he tell us what discussions have taken place and what the timetable is because all we are hearing from him are vague references to indicative dates and that he will stay on?

We were originally told that the essential Bill was the finance Bill but are now told it is the Climate Change Response Bill. The Taoiseach will find every excuse and Bill somebody wants to ask him for and will elevate them to being something of a huge national importance in order to get a next week or month in office. Meanwhile, he is simply holding up the country's recovery.

I do not know how the Deputy intends to instil confidence when he continues to be one of the foremost spokespersons for the negativity industry in the country.

I have not been.

He uses phrases such as "stuck in the mire", "economic corpse" and "banjaxed", which are all part of the Labour Party lexicon in myriad press releases we read. It is the usual politics of the old Democratic Left non-stop, day in and day out, to keep throwing the muck in case some of it might stick.


The Taoiseach without interruption, please.

That is the level of rhetoric we are hearing from the Deputy on an ongoing basis and thankfully people are starting to cop on to it. They will realise it more when an election takes place and we check the veracity of his policies and his proposed solutions for the country in the midst of the biggest crisis since the foundation of the State. We all know what would have happened. The economy would have collapsed.

One of the Deputy's solutions is to tax working families even more in order to make sure it can raise €2.5 billion. He did not know what was in his policy when he made his contribution to the House.

The second point I would make as to why I will not accept Deputy Gilmore's confidence motion is that even Fine Gael thought it was stupid. It was a stunt last Saturday, in an effort to see if the Deputy could get his face in the paper for Sunday. That is what it was about.


That is the politics as usual we are getting from the Labour Party, but people are not buying that, much as the Deputy thinks they are. People are not buying it.


Withdraw that remark.

The lads are back on side today, are they? Do they agree with it today?

Allow the Taoiseach to respond.

The lads are back on side having had a chat about it on Tuesday morning. Is Deputy Kenny back on side? Is he going with it?

I did not challenge the intellectual capacity of the leader of the Labour Party. I said the motion was ill-timed and ill-judged.

I could not agree more with the Deputy. I knew the day would come when Deputy Kenny would realise that a no confidence motion in this Government was ill-timed and ill-judged.


I will tell Deputies one thing, they are worth it. It is worth coming in here for half an hour.

What did the Taoiseach take this morning?

It is almost ten past eleven, please allow Leaders' Questions to continue.

The final comment I want to make to Deputy Gilmore is that the only person who ran away from anything this week was himself, by not appearing on "The Frontline".

I see the Taoiseach is back on the pellets.

The Deputy would know a lot about pellets.

During the course of Leaders' Questions yesterday, the Taoiseach stated to me:

There is no relevance whatever to me having a dinner with regard to what I do in the course of my duties. If the Deputy has any suggestion or evidence to the contrary, he should not abuse the privilege of this House. Let him go outside and say it and I will see him in court.

I have gone outside the Dáil. I took the opportunity in a public statement last evening to say that the Taoiseach's dinner with senior figures of Anglo Irish Bank and the director of the Central Bank and the Irish Financial Services Regulatory Authority was and is relevant to his duties. Also, I repeated outside the Dáil the questions I asked in this Chamber yesterday, which the Taoiseach did not answer over the course of the opportunity open to him. Instead, he threatened legal action.

I will repeat those questions again. They are both inside and outside the Dáil now. I will give the Taoiseach one further opportunity to answer them. I will repeat them exactly as I posed them yesterday. How appropriate was it that a director of the Central Bank, appointed by the Taoiseach, would be engaged in debate on matters fiscal and economic, job creation and budgetary issues with three, either then or previous, senior directors of Anglo Irish Bank? That is straightforward. Second, why did it take a question from me in the course of Leaders' Questions for the Taoiseach to offer the information that it was not only a golf outing with Seán FitzPatrick and Fintan Drury, but that he was also meeting that evening with Gary McGann and Alan Gray, a director of the Central Bank and a member of the Irish Financial Services Regulatory Authority, whom the Taoiseach had appointed when Minister for Finance in January 2007? Why did the Taoiseach not offer that information previously?

Third, what is the situation on the Taoiseach's dinner with the board of Anglo Irish Bank in April 2008 and Mr. David Drumm's claim that he spent at least an hour briefing the Taoiseach on the issues in regard to Anglo Irish Bank? Again, I ask the Taoiseach, is Mr. Drumm lying or is it that the Taoiseach cannot recall all of the details or is it something else? It has been reported that Mr. Drumm has secured a deal with Anglo Irish Bank which will block the Garda Síochána from gaining access to confidential reports which are to be revealed in the context of Mr. David Drumm's court case in the United States. Is there any basis to these reports? Is there any fear that Mr. Drumm will evade full scrutiny in this jurisdiction and prosecution if same be appropriate because of this? I also asked whether the Minister for Finance, or anyone else, approve such arrangements as inferred from the reports before us, given that Anglo Irish Bank is now in State ownership and that the Minister for Finance has a central role in determining matters concerning same.

Those were straightforward questions and I believe they deserved to be answered. I assure the Taoiseach that I have no more regard for the word of Mr. David Drumm, as the Taoiseach suggested yesterday. I do not know the man from Adam.

We have overrun the time.

I am about to conclude. I have a responsibility to pursue the facts and to help establish the full truth. The Taoiseach's fulsome answer to my questions would be appreciated and welcomed.

With regard to the dinner in Druid's Glen, it was not inappropriate for me to sit and discuss the economy or economic issues with the people who are in business or who are economic advisers in their own right and have economic consultancy firms. I would think that is not an inappropriate thing to do. What has proven to be a problem in terms of perception is that we are now projecting back what we know now, which is subsequent to what we knew then. Clearly people are making the effort to project some foreknowledge on my behalf of what subsequently happened and to suggest that, therefore, I was some way involved in an interaction with Anglo Irish Bank.

Oh no, more Bertie speak.

It is not Bertie speak. I am trying to explain something here. I have been asked a question and want to answer it. It is not a big deal. That is the situation.

On the question of what happened subsequently, of course I would rather that situation had not occurred, but it was an innocent engagement of a game of golf. The people who played the game of golf were the three people mentioned by the Deputy, including myself. I do not play much golf, but I have explained the reason I was available that day. It was the first day of the holidays after the last Cabinet meeting and that is the size of it. Subsequently, people joined us at a meal after the golf game. I was asked by The Sunday Times if I had played a game of golf with Seán FitzPatrick and Fintan Drury on such a date and I answered that I had. Sin é. When I came into the House to give full answers with regard to anything arising from that, I was able to give any further information the Deputy wanted. However, it is not relevant nor detailed. Nothing arises.

It is not an abuse of privilege for the Deputy to ask the questions he is asking, but when I suggested to him that he speak outside of the House I was asking what I am supposed to be guilty of as a result of all of this or what I am supposed to do about it. It was if the Deputy had anything to say about that, which might be libellous or have the potential to do down my good name and character, I would rather that was done outside and then I would take legal advice on it. However, the Deputy has not made that case. He has simply created this picture and that is what he is at.

I am making it very clear to the Deputy that this is the context and content of the whole situation and if he has anything to adduce from it or anything of which to accuse me as a result, he should set it out for me. All I know is that I played a game of golf and had a meal and was talking to people in a social context and that there were discussions of serious and less serious issues in terms of economics, jobs and all the rest and of what we could do given that a recession was upon us. Subsequently, issues happened as a result of due diligence after the loan guarantee. Corporate governance issues arose in November-December of that year and the bank was nationalised subsequently. That is the sequence. If people want to project all the knowledge we know now back to that point in time, that is where people try to suggest that something inappropriate happened. The facts do not bear that out. I have explained all of that. I cannot give the Deputy any more detail; I do not have the menu or anything like that.

If there is anything else the Deputy wants to discuss, let us know. However, he should start stacking it up now and say something, rather than just leave it out there, because the purpose of leaving it out there is to give people an impression which has no validity in fact. That is what I am saying.

I answered the Deputy's second question in what I have just said.

The Deputy's third question related to the April dinner. Again, I do not — no one could have without assistance — full recollection in that regard. I was fulfilling an engagement, which had been sought some months before but which I did not fulfil. I was leaving the Department of Finance at the time, having been appointed leader designate of Fianna Fáil. I decided to honour the engagement, which had been delayed as set down when the usual issues arose. I am sure, as was stated earlier by Deputy Kenny in a previous encounter about this, there were various things said by various people from the banks who were outlining their general position.

We all know that from August 2007, following the Lehman's debacle, there was a tightening of credit throughout the system. In fact, the Department of Finance had been seeking to manage that throughout the year, as was the Central Bank. They are the people who were seeking to ensure stability and liquidity within the system. That was something that every Central Bank in Europe and in other currency areas were also doing. This had caused a huge shock in the system over time. The tightening of liquidity continued over that period. They are the details. In regard to Mr. David Drumm, I think that is the only time I ever met the man.

The Deputy's next question was, arising out of what went on, did I do anything and of what am I accused of doing when I went to that dinner. Again, nothing. The Deputy stated that the suggestion is made in reports that Mr. Drumm said I did this, that and the other for Anglo Irish Bank, that I would get funds from the National Treasury Management Agency, NTMA, to put into Anglo Irish Bank. The man who runs the NTMA, when asked about this, stated he had never been asked by the Minister for Finance to do anything like that. That is still not accepted. We then get another story and away we go again with the Deputy rising in the House and saying that he will not pass remark on Mr. Drumm and asking: "Let's hear you deny it." It is the old LBJ stuff, namely, accuse him and let us hear him deny it. That is the game the Deputy is at.

The Taoiseach was with them.

I am just trying to explain something.

The Taoiseach was not playing golf with people from the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.

Deputy Ó Caoláin can keep that up. It may be a tactic that works in other situations in other jurisdictions but it will not work with me.

I call Deputy Ó Caoláin on a brief supplementary question.

The Taoiseach has made the point that this was no big deal. It was a big deal yesterday given the Taoiseach believed he could cudgel me into silence with the threat of legal action.

If the Deputy said something.

I can assure the Taoiseach it was a big deal because he avoided answering any of the questions then and has continued to do so this morning.

I ask the Deputy to remember that this is Leaders' Questions.

Yes, and I am in possession.

This is not the time for making lengthy Second Stage speeches.

The Taoiseach is an intelligent man. I do not know if there is anything wrong with his hearing but the question I asked was if it was appropriate not for him, but for a member of the Irish Financial Services Regulatory Authority, IFSRA, Mr. Gray, to be in the position he was in. I asked directly of the Taoiseach why he did not offer the information. I heard his responses regarding Mr. Drumm and in regard to the ongoing situation in the United States. Lest there is any doubt in the mind of the Taoiseach or anybody else in regard to why these questions are being posed, this is not about whether he was involved in any dodgy deals in Druids Glen — I do not believe that to be the case — but, as the Taoiseach knows, about trying to establish the extent of the information that he and his Minister for Finance may or may not have had when they came into this House and presented their bank guarantee proposals that have almost sunk this economy.

That is a legitimate question.

We are collectively trying to establish the extent of or lack of knowledge on the part of the Taoiseach in relation to this hugely important matter that impinges on the lives of every one of our citizens today and those yet unborn.

I put it to the Taoiseach that this is a valid pursuit, a line of inquiry that we will relentlessly pursue. Would the Taoiseach agree that there are only one of two possibilities, namely, the Taoiseach and the Minister for Finance, through all of their social opportunities and the regulatory arrangements that were in place——

The Deputy must ask a question. We must bring this matter to a conclusion.

——were fully aware of the real situation in relation to Anglo Irish Bank and they withheld that information from this House at the critical time when they came before Members in this Chamber or, alternatively, the Taoiseach did not have the knowledge, with all the cosy engagements that were taking place and all the relationships that have been exposed down through the years and in recent times——

Can we expect a final question, please?

——and was codded along by these people, corrupt bankers and others who had both the Taoiseach and Minister for Finance as fools? It is one or the other. Either the Taoiseach and Minister for Finance are fools or they misled us. The Taoiseach may be ebullient this morning following his success yesterday but make no mistake about it the people have already decided in relation to his future.

Have they?

I will answer the Deputy's question directly. The Deputy does not have to relentlessly pursue anything now that he has put it out on the table.

It has always been there.

Has it been? I will answer the Deputy. On the first matter, the state of my knowledge at the time of the making of a guarantee was the advice I obtained on that night from the regulatory authorities, the Central Bank and the Department of Finance. The people who were dealing with Anglo Irish Bank in relation to liquidity issues were from the Central Bank. The people dealing with Anglo Irish Bank or any other financial institution in relation to regulatory requirements were from the Irish Financial Services Regulatory Authority, IFSRA. They have been given statutory independent authority by this House under statute to deal with those issues. Those are the people who were dealing with this.

It is clear from the reports which have emanated from Regling and Watson and Professor Honohan that the analysis and assessment of the situation by those authorities who were responsible for interfacing with the financial institutions was based on the regulatory system in place at the time, which was replicated in other EU countries and other parts of the world. It is clear that we had systems failures in relation to those matters, as set out dispassionately in the reports which this Government and the Oireachtas sought in terms of getting an overview of what happened, what went wrong and how it went wrong. It is all in the report. However, that does not stop Deputy Ó Caoláin coming in here to give his version of events, which is to suggest that I had not taken the advice given to me. Various advices were given and various options needed to be considered. What was clear on the night in question, which I have been trying to get across to the Deputy for two years now, is that we faced the prospect of systemic failure with not one institution but the whole system going down. That required a response that would return confidence to the markets. That is the reason we gave the guarantee we gave.

Not a blanket guarantee.


Excuse me, Deputy. I am answering the question.

Deputy Ó Caoláin, please resume your seat.

The Deputy has suggested two possibilities. On the first in relation to the extent of my knowledge of the situation, any Minister for Finance has knowledge based on advices received from those with whom he or she works and from the regulatory authorities concerned. That is the situation, Deputy.

Who advised the Taoiseach?

Deputy Shortall, please.

Any suggestion of corruption on my part is totally out the door. It is unworthy. That is not the case. If I have to keep coming in here to say that, I will do so.

The public will decide that.

The public will not decide that.

No, the public will not decide that. I am making my case here. However the election turns out will not be based on that point. It will be based on a lot issues. If the Labour Party were depending on representation based on that issue, which would be an absurd suggestion to make, one would be suggesting that there was something wrong with the Labour Party people, which I do not suggest there is. That does not make sense either.

The Deputy next suggested that we were all fools. The decisions we made were based on the information available at that time. That is what we did. Subsequently, when due diligence was done and that crisis had passed, an investigation showed up corporate governance problems.

To whom was the Minister listening that night?

Please allow me to finish.

Deputy Shortall, please allow the Taoiseach to continue without interruption.

I am entitled to answer without interruption.

Be straight about it.

Deputy Shortall, please allow the Taoiseach to continue without interruption.

There is no point.

I will have to ask Deputy Shortall to leave the House if she does not desist.

The situation then regarding the other matter is due diligence took place, corporate governance issues arose and a nationalisation subsequently took place. Had nationalisation taken place on the night in question, according to the Honohan report, there would have been no further cost involved in that and one would still have had to give a guarantee because there was still a systemic threat. When all of this is boiled down, it is not the hill of beans the Deputy is trying to make it out to be.

It is a hill of beans.

No, it is not because the guarantee we gave on that night was the right guarantee for that purpose. The Deputy can argue about it every way she likes but that was the situation. That was our judgment and final assessment of the situation. That is where it is at. It has been stated subsequently, whatever one says about subordinated debt, that this was the issue. This debt was discounted, some of it to the tune of 80%, in subsequent discussions. It was 3% of the total amount guaranteed.

The difficulty on that night — this is where people come back into the equation — was whether one could differentiate and whether one could do all this. The point was to make the strongest, most assertive guarantee one possibly could to make sure the markets responded positively because we were faced with systemic failure within days, which would have seen the banks on the floor, if the guarantee did not happen. That is stated in the Honohan report.

Those are the facts. That is the situation and I refer to those reports in that respect.

Briefly, can I ask——

That concludes Leaders' Questions. The Deputy should resume his seat. There is just provision for two questions and we are finished. We will move on to Questions to the Taoiseach.

They are finished for today.