* Public outrage over bank bailout growing after tapes leak
* "Another day, another billion", bank CEO laughed
* Could re-run referendum to give investigation more bite
By Padraic Halpin
DUBLIN, June 26 Ireland could try to beef up an
inquiry into the 2008 rescue of failed banks that eventually
forced the country into an EU bailout, after embarrassing
revelations that a major lender may have misled the central
With public outrage growing over bankers who were taped
laughing about the unfolding crisis, a government source said a
referendum rejected by voters in 2011 to give lawmakers powers
to point the finger of blame at individuals might be re-run.
"Once the referendum was defeated, the attitude of
government was to accept that, but the manner in which this has
burst into the public domain again requires government to look
at every option," the source told Reuters.
Concerns over how robust any parliamentary inquiry will be
have come to the fore after the Irish Independent newspaper
released transcripts of phone conversations in September 2008
between executives at the now-liquidated Anglo Irish Bank.
In the tapes, Anglo executives joked about how much cash
would be needed to keep the bank afloat, and sang the German
national anthem and laughed as they discussed money flowing in
from other countries after a guarantee of deposits.
Rescuing Anglo and two other banks eventually cost taxpayers
some 30 billion euros - almost one-fifth of annual output - and
led to Ireland's 85 billion euro IMF/EU bailout in late 2010.
The executives have denied any wrongdoing or intention to
mislead the central bank.
On Wednesday, the paper's headline cited Anglo's then-chief
executive, David Drumm, saying "Another day, another billion".
The remarks are likely to stoke more fury among Ireland's
4.6 million people, many of whom have had salaries cut and faced
a raft of tax hikes to help pay debts resulting from the rescue.
The revelations are also seen as damaging to Ireland's
efforts to secure more European funds to recapitalise the banks,
wrecked when a property bubble burst after years of reckless
lending, and so cut the debt it took on to bail them out.
The Irish have remained sanguine through the country's deep
economic crisis, rarely taking to the streets in protest, but
reaction to the so-called 'Anglo Tapes' has shown there is
latent anger among voters.
Distracted by a presidential election on the same day, the
government ran a lacklustre campaign in 2011 on a referendum
that proposed giving parliament powers to examine the conduct of
individuals and make findings of fact against them. Voters were
also swung by a late intervention from a group of former
Attorneys General who warned that the change to the constitution
would give politicians too much power.
A re-run would probably succeed, but would further delay a
probe into events that are already nearly five years old.
The alternative is proposed legislation granting more limited
powers, which would prohibit parliamentary committees from
making adverse findings against individuals. Those called to
testify might also be able to avoid answering questions.
Prime Minister Enda Kenny, who was leader of the opposition
during the 2008 rescue, told parliament on Wednesday that the
question of repeating the referendum had been raised but that he
had not given a definitive answer.
Kenny has pledged that the currently proposed legislation
will be passed by August, but given the amount of preparatory
work required, witnesses are likely to be called only next year.
That could mean the inquiry clashes with a trial on fraud
charges of three former Anglo executives - including ex-chairman
Sean FitzPatrick - also set for 2014.
"I would be somewhat doubtful as to whether, under the Irish
constitution, they will be able to get the kind of information
the Irish public is looking for," said Antoin Murphy, economics
professor at Trinity College Dublin.