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Saturday 10 December 2016

Lenihan family hit back at Trichet over phone message claim

bailout

THERE is no move to allow relatives of the late Finance Minister, Brian Lenihan, appear before the parliamentary inquiry, it has emerged.

Mr Lenihan's family criticised comments made by former European Central Bank (ECB) president Jean-Claude Trichet at the inquiry last Thursday.

Mr Trichet denied that he phoned the Finance Minister in September 2008 telling him to "save the Irish banks at all costs" just days before the bank guarantee was announced.

message

Mr Lenihan's aunt, the former minister Mary O'Rourke, said she believed Mr Lenihan when he said he had received a phone message from Mr Trichet.

But she said somebody could well have made this call on the then-ECB president's behalf.

"He said he did not telephone. He may not have telephoned. Somebody acting for him may well have. I believe Brian got a telephone call," Ms O'Rourke told RTE radio.

A spokesman for the banking inquiry committee said he could make no further comment on the question of right of reply for Mr Lenihan's family. "We are all very conscious of the family's position and real tragedy involved. We are also mindful of our responsibilities to everybody," the spokesman said.

But committee sources said the work schedule as laid out - which does not include Mr Lenihan's relatives at present - will proceed.

This involves direct testimony including long-time ECB vice-president Vitor Constancio and the former Taoiseach Brian Cowen.

Ms O'Rourke also yesterday criticised the committee for travelling to the Royal Hospital in Dublin to listen to the former ECB president by special arrangement.

"He did not take an oath, he did not have to take an oath. Anyone who goes into Leinster House to the committee has to take an oath and we all know you can't lie under oath," Ms O'Rourke said.

She said she believed the setting was wrong and it was a case of the committee had been "summoned to the master".

Ultimately, the committee members were made to look like school children, Ms O'Rourke added.

Many committee members were unhappy with the format of Mr Trichet's hearing but accepted it as a compromise.

Fianna Fail's finance spokesman Michael McGrath said the format was an "unsatisfactory compromise" between the inquiry and Mr Trichet but he said members had a "stark choice" between accepting Mr Trichet's terms or have no testimony at all.

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The bank inquiry committee will now examine telephone records from Mr Lenihan to try to establish if any phone call was made.

The current ECB vice-president Vitor Constancio, who was the head of the Portuguese Central Bank until 2010, was nominated in February to represent the bank in "informal discussions" with the Oireachtas bank committee. He sat on the board of the ECB throughout the bank crisis and bailout.

Details of how Mr Constancio's testimony will be handled are still being worked out but it is likely to occur at Leinster House.

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