* Bank executive comments spark widespread anger
* Deputy premier says complicating talks with EU
* Ireland wants bailout fund to recapitalise banks
By Sam Cage and Conor Humphries
DUBLIN, June 25 Ireland's deputy prime minister
laid in to "arrogant" executives on Tuesday at a failed bank who
mocked government efforts to tackle an economic crisis, amid
growing public outrage at the latest revelations in tapes of
bank executive phone calls.
The revelations were seen as potentially damaging to
Ireland's efforts to obtain concessions from the European Union
on the terms of a bank rescue that pushed it to an
85-billion-euro ($111 billion) bailout.
In the tapes published by the Irish Independent newspaper,
the collapsed Anglo Irish Bank's then-head of capital markets
John Bowe was asked how it had come up with a figure of 7
billion euros for a rescue, responding that he had "picked it
out of my arse".
The bank eventually cost taxpayers some 30 billion euros
during the financial crisis, almost one-fifth of the country's
annual output, and three former executives - not including Bowe
- will go on trial next year on fraud charges.
"I mean the degree of arrogance, the degree of hubris, the
degree of couldn't-care-less-about-the-taxpayer, about the Irish
people, that seemed to be part and parcel of the culture of that
bank," deputy prime minister Eamon Gilmore said.
In Dublin, the story dominated television and radio news for
a second day, with almost all national papers splashing the
story on their front pages. "How come nobody's in jail?" read
the lead headline in the Irish Sun.
The Irish Independent released more details including Bowe
singing the German national anthem and laughing as he discussed
the prospect of German money flowing in after the guarantee on
"There is a lot of latent anger about this issue," said Eoin
O'Malley, a lecturer in politics at Dublin City University.
"Most of us must have known - but now you can hear them
commenting and you can hear the tone."
Many Irish have had their salaries cut by 20 percent or more
in order to meet fiscal deficit targets as part of the loan
guarantees for the country's international bailout.
The unemployment rate has trebled since the crisis to 14
percent after the bank-and-land speculation property bubble
burst. The 2008 blanket guarantee on bank liabilities led to an
85 billion euro IMF/EU bailout and provoked widespread anger in
the country of 4.6 million.
"These guys in the banks lose billions and nothing ever
happens," said Noel Newman, a 78-year-old retiree in Dublin. "On
the tape they were laughing, joking. The way they said it was
Bowe and another executive, consumer banking chief Peter
Fitzgerald, said they regretted the conversation but denied any
wrongdoing or intention to mislead the central bank.
The opposition has called for a full inquiry into the
collapse of the financial system and the timing has embarrassed
the government in the last week of its six-month EU presidency.
Ireland wants funds from the European Stability Mechanism
bailout fund to help reduce its debt burden from bailing out its
banks, but any application will be decided on a case-by-case
basis and could be complicated by questions over the bailout.
"We've had continuing negotiations with the ECB (European
Central Bank) and with European Union partners. What has come
out of these tapes doesn't make our job any easier - it makes it
more difficult," Gilmore said at a meeting in Luxembourg.
The bloc's finance ministers agreed last week that the ESM
will be able to help recapitalise banks that ran into trouble in
the past - which Ireland views as vital to shore up its finances
- but it will not give blanket permission for the funding.
Anglo, which was liquidated earlier this year, brought a
premature end to the political career of former Prime Minister
Brian Cowen, who was finance minister during the years of
reckless lending across Irish banks.
"What the people want to know is when justice is going to be
done," Cowen's successor Enda Kenny, leader of the opposition in
2008, told parliament. Kenny has promised an inquiry once
required legislation is passed, which he hopes to do by August.
But many voters remain sceptical that a close knit elite
would do what it takes to bring friends of friends to justice.
"If it was any other country they would have been in prison
by now," said health care worker Mary Mullerby, 62.
"White-collar crime is something you get away with in Ireland."